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How to Make Wool Mittens from “Upcycled” Sweaters

A quick easy and frugal DIY – How to Make Wool Mittens from Upcycled Sweaters. This quick project is fun to do with kids and give away!

Aren’t these wool mittensย super cute?! ย They are also very easy! If you’re an expert sewer, you can probably look at the picture below and just make them. I’m not an expert sewer, unfortunately, and this simple project actually took me a little bit of practice and thought (not too much, though). I got the original idea here, from Martha Stewart. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re not sure how to felt wool, check out this post on how toย wool felt out of sweaters. You’ll need this skill to make these cute mittens.

How to Make Wool Mittens from Upcycled Sweaters

how to make wool mittens from upcycled sweaters

First, trace the hand you want the mitten for to make a pattern.

How to Make Wool Mittens from "Upcycled" Sweaters

Add a 1/4 inch for your seam allowance and cut out the pattern. Then, pin it to your felted wool and cut out two pairs. You can use the same pattern for both hands. No need to make two patterns.

How to Make Wool Mittens from "Upcycled" Sweaters

How to Make Wool Mittens from "Upcycled" Sweaters

After you have two sets of mittens (4 total pieces of felt), sew two of them together wrong sides together. Then, turn them right side out and try them on!

How to Make Wool Mittens from "Upcycled" Sweaters

Hopefully, they fit perfectly. If not, adjust as necessary. Repeat with the other two pieces of felt and put on your new mittens!
How to Make Wool Mittens from "Upcycled" Sweaters

Now if I can figure out how to make the coordinating hat, I’ll be happy… ๐Ÿ™‚

Are you making any Christmas presents this year? I’d love to hear about it!

Tips for DIY Family Pictures on a Budget

Wanting to take family portraits without breaking the bank? Here are Tips for DIY Family Pictures on a Budget that will help you take great shots!

I am a picture person. I love taking candid pictures of my kids and capturing memories. Formal family photos, though, are another story. In the past, taking family pictures has stressed me out, reduced at least one person to tears (usually me), and cost an arm and a leg. And worse, they haven’t turned out that nice. Family pictures have traditionally been a huge exercise in frustration for me.

Tips for DIY Family Pictures on a Budget

I was determined this year to get nice pictures for our Christmas cards without spending a ton of money and without the frustration or tears.ย  I did a little brainstorming and we did a family photo shoot. Here’s my favorite picture from the bunch! What do you think?

Tips for DIY Family Pictures on a Budget

I think we nailed it! And the best part: no one got mad, no one was reduced to tears, and, I could be biased, but I think the turned out really nice!

Here are my tips for family pictures on a budget.

Props ~

Take a look around your house and think about how everyday items can be used in your photo shoots. Greenery, decorations, chairs, stools, blankets, sheets – all of these things make excellent additions to photos and help with staging your subjects. I used a Christmas tree skirt to drape over a couple of stools. And I used a big wreath we bought to hang at our barn. Out of pocket cost – NOTHING! (Well, except for the wreath. But I didn’t buy that for the purpose of pictures.)

A very smart cousin of mine used to paint drywall for her backdrop to simulate the look of Picture People pictures. She painted two pieces the same color and put one on the floor and one against the wall. Her Christmas pictures are always awesome and I think painting drywall could be a lot of fun.

Tips for DIY Family Pictures on a Budget

Backdrops ~

Where you take your picture has a huge influence on the end product. Personally, I love to go outside. Think about pictures down country roads, a creek, near an old barn, in a pile of leaves, in the snow, the park! You’re only limited by your imagination. For our family shoot this year, we went to the barn we are in the process of restoring. Next year it’s going to look a lot different and I’m really glad we got these pictures while it still looks rustic and broken.

If you’d prefer to stay inside, I’ve had good luck hanging a large sheet from the wall so that it drapes over the floor. The sheet gives a uniform backdrop and is another way to simulate photo studio pictures for no out of pocket expense.

Timing matters! ~

Be careful of the time of day you shoot. If you go outside between 10 am – 2 pm, you may be plagued by shadows. Shadows on faces can ruin a great picture. I was lamenting shadows on Facebook a while back and a friend told me to make sure I placed my subjects IN the shade to reduce shadows. That was a huge AHA moment for me. No shadows if we’re in the shade. BRILLIANT!

Clothing ~

I love the look of kids in the matching clothes, but coordinating clothing can be a huge expense and it’s hard to do with my age of children. Personally, I like there to be variety in the clothing we wear. I don’t want everyone to totally match. So, I make sure to have two or three different, yet coordinating, colors in my family photos. In the pictures for this year, two of my children wore red, two wore white, and my hubs and I had on brown. This decision was based simply on what I could find for the least out of pocket expense. I went first to our closets and supplemented with Goodwill.

If you’re worried about color combinations in your pictures, consider simply turning your pictures black & white or sepia. Then you don’t really have to worry about matching colors at all.

Tips for DIY Family Pictures on a Budget

Photographer ~

This one’s a little tricky. I have a remote control for my camera which I had intended to use, but based on where we ended up taking the pictures, it would not have been possible to set up the camera for this shot. Luckily, a friend was on hand to snap the pictures. He sort of lucked into the deal. He didn’t know he was going to be taking these pictures this afternoon, but he did a great job. Family, friends, surely you know one person who likes to take pictures you could ask. A reciprocal agreement could work out well. You know, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours? ๐Ÿ™‚

Editing ~

Finally, editing. There are all kinds of free software you can download to edit your pictures. I use Picasa, a free download from Google. You can get it here. From Picasa, you can easily edit out red eyes, crop your pictures, turn them sepia or black & white. You can even do a filter black & white to add a bit of color, and add words. I love Picasa. It’s easy to use and doesn’t cost anything.


Attitude ~

A good attitude is always a plus. I know if I go into pictures stressed and uptight it makes things a lot worse. I try to stay lighthearted and funny. It’s not always possible, but it does make a difference. We usually do an obligatory funny-face photo either to loosen up the mood or after we’re finished. We actually forgot to do one on this particular day, but we almost always do them. And sometimes, they are my favorite picture of the bunch! They remind me to be carefree and enjoy life. Sometimes, I need a good reminder. ๐Ÿ™‚

These are my tips for family pictures on a budget. Do have anything to add? I’m always looking for more good ideas!

Tips for DIY Family Pictures on a Budget



It’s Easy Being Green Smoothie

I finally broke down and bought myself a Vitamix a couple weeks ago. I’ve been drooling over them for over 10 years and finally decided now’s the time! Merry Christmas to me! ๐Ÿ™‚


This morning I made a wonderful green smoothie. The kids are suspicious because it’s green, but it tastes really good and they’re drinking it! (I blamed the green grapes!)

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup grapes
1 medium orange, peeled & halved (I omitted this because I didn’t have any. I’m curious to see how much better it tastes with the orange)
1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks, core included
1 banana
1 carrot, halved
2 cups fresh spinach
1 medium apple, quartered & seeded
6 cups ice

1. Place all ingredients in Vitamix in order listed and secure lid.
2. Select Variable 1
3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then High.
4. Blend for 1 minute or until desired consistency is reached.

Serve with a straw and enjoy! If you’re feeling guilty about plastic straws, check out these Stainless Steel Strawsblank and these Glass Strawsblank!

I’m pretty sure Santa is putting the stainless steel straws in my kiddos’ stockings this year!

I’m linking up to Fight Back Friday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways!

Week 4 – Spica Casts and Poop


We’ve survived another week in the Spica cast. Four weeks down, eight to go. Week 4 was by far the worst week yet. We got completely off our daily rhythm (we don’t have much of a formal schedule but we do have a rhythm)- ALL because of poop.

Yes, poop. You see, my husband had been feeling bad for weeks and weeks and weeks. He finally went to the doctor and found out he had giardia, some kind of amoeba, and something else. The doctors were very impressed by his stool sample – apparently it’s quite rare to have everything he had at the same time.

No, he hasn’t been to any third world countries lately. And yes, we’re having our well water tested at our barn before we drink it again, and, yes, he’ll probably kill me if he knows I’m throwing this out there on the internet, so let’s just keep it between you and me, ok? ๐Ÿ˜‰

The doctors said that no one else in the family needed to be tested unless we were having symptoms. And wouldn’t you know it, my stomach started hurting right after his diagnosis. Huh. Imagine that. So with Thanksgiving approaching, I decided it would be a good idea to get me tested and made an appointment with my family doctor. And no sooner did I leave for my appointment did Cora, the three year old, say her belly hurt, too.

So I spent three days chasing poop samples back and forth between doctors and labs. They rejected a couple samples which was beyond frustrating. Apparently poop needs to be refrigerated! Did you know that? I’m not sure why. It’s not like it’s cold inside the body.

Three Natural Products to Keep in Yourย  Carpet Cleaning Arsenal

If I had it my way, there would be no carpet in our house. We’d stick with hardwood and tile! But, I don’t have it my way right now and we have some carpet in our house. With four children, it’s inevitable that the carpet gets dirty  even though we have a no eating or drinking policy on the carpet, try to vacuum it often, and ask people to remove their shoes at the door as often as possible.

Three Natural Products to Keep in Your  Carpet Cleaning Arsenal

Carpet cleaners tout their services as necessary for prolonging the life of carpet. But is carpet cleaning safe? Traditional carpet cleaning can be toxic. The chemicals (particularly trichloroethylene or TCE) that some carpet cleaning products rely on are suspected in leukemia outbreaks and ground water contamination.

While some carpet cleaners use chemical cleaners, others just use water. Water is better than chemicals, but you want to make sure all the water is effectively removed from the carpet so the pad doesn’t grow mold!

green carpet cleaning tips

It’s a good idea to ask carpet cleaners what type of cleaning compounds they use so you can avoid the toxic chemicals and how they get all the water out. I know I don’t want my toddler breathing in and ingesting nasty chemicals or mold from my carpet. In addition to polluting indoor air quality and causing other health concerns, some cleaners, especially high pH products, can actually promote stains because they leave behind counter-productive residues.

How to Clean Carpet without Using Chemicals

So, how do you keep your carpets clean and safe without the harsh chemicals? Luckily, a lot of safe household products work really well at removing stains and odors. I always have three items on hand for cleaning carpet without chemicals:

  1. Baking Soda
  2. Salt
  3. Hydrogen Peroxide

Not only are the helpful for cleaning carpets, but they’re also frugal as well!

Baking Soda Helps Clean & Deodorize Carpet Naturally

We recently deodorized our carpet with a big box of baking soda. We smeared the box into the carpet, let it sit overnight, and then vacuumed it up the next morning. It worked really well! And the best part, that box of baking soda cost under $4!clean carpet without chemicalsI also spilled red wine on my carpet a few days ago. I know – I need to follow my own no eating or drinking rules, eh? Of course, it was a nice big spot in a very conspicuous area on my carpet. I acted very quickly and the spot is gone! First, I dumped a huge amount of salt on the carpet. I left the salt there overnight and vacuumed it up the next morning. It looked like Kool-aid the next morning because it absorbed quite a lot of the spilled wine. I should have taken pictures…

The salt didn’t get the whole stain out, though, so I turned to hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a trick I learned from our home birth midwives. It’s also effective at getting blood out of fibers (but you want to test it out first to make sure it doesn’t discolor your carpets or fabric). I just dumped some HP on the carpet and scrubbed with a brush. The hydrogen peroxide did the trick and there is no big red wine spot on my carpet anymore! Yay!

green carpet cleanersOther household products that work well for carpet cleaning in addition to the hydrogen peroxide, salt, and baking soda are corn starch, vinegar, club soda, and borax. Next time you pick up a package of one of those products, look at the directions. You might be surprised how many ways they can be used around your house! Here is also a helpful link for how to deal with specific stains, but they do recommend some chemicals so read with caution.

How do you keep your carpets clean without chemicals? For more information, read this information from Healthy Child, Healthy World here, here, and here.

For more Green Cleaning Tips, check out these posts:

Decrease Toxins with 4 Frugal Cleaning Supplies

How to Clean Porcelain Sinks without Bleach

DIY Fruit & Veggie Wash

Do You Know What’s in YOUR Home Cleaning Products

What are your trips for cleaning carpet without using chemicals?


Green Cleaning Tips

Week 3 – Is Hip Dysplasia Painful?

We have now passed the THREE week mark in the SPICA cast. Three weeks down, Nine to go.


A burning question on my mind has to with pain. Everything I have read about hip dysplasia (and I’ve read a lot) is that it’s NOT painful. The two very highly respected doctors we’ve seen both told us that there’s no pain associated with DDH. Everything online suggests that as well.

But, I don’t understand how that can be. Sara’s left hip was completely dislocated, so much so that it was forming its own secondary socket in her pelvis. The xray clearly shows that! How can that NOT hurt?


A few days after Sara’s hip surgery, another mom asked this same question on the hip-baby yahoo group we belong to. She said, her own daughter’s demeanor had changed so much for the positive after her daughter’s surgery that she wondered if anyone else has experienced anything similar. Numerous people replied that their own children seemed happier post surgery, too. I was mildly surprised as a lot of the people who replied had children who had previously been mobile but were now stuck in a spica cast. How can going from mobile to not even being able to sit up on your own not make a person mad?? Or at the very least, frustrated beyond belief?

But now that we are three weeks into our own spica cast journey, I feel compelled to add my own two cents! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Sara also seems happier!! I don’t know what I can really attribute her happiness to – constant attention? Being carried around everywhere and fawned over? Getting pretty much everything she wants? (We’re so gonna pay when this is all over…) Almost always sitting on someone’s lap? Her age? Or, could it be that her hip is (hopefully) securely back where it belongs?


I don’t know. But I do know that my previously solemn baby girl is now laughing, talking, pointing, clapping, dancing with her one free foot, playing peek-a-boo, and army crawling too!! And I really like to see her happy because NINE more weeks with the spica cast still seem like an eternity to me! But the first three have flown by.

So here’s to time flying by for nine more weeks (That’s Valentine’s Day if 9 weeks doesn’t sound like a long time to you)!!!

If you have experienced hip dysplasia with your own child, what’s your two cents worth? Painful? or NOT painful?


Thanksgiving Menu



I realized a couple of days ago that Thanksgiving is next week already. I’ve been in living in cave for the last couple of weeks since my daughter’s surgery. Fortunately, some lovely friends came over today for a delightful afternoon and I’m feeling a little more inspired to tackle life! I finally decided it’s time to start thinking about the Thanksgiving menu.

This year marks a new adventure in Thanksgiving meals for our extended family. In previous years, we’ve either been far away from all family and have enjoyed lovely meals with military friends, or I’ve hosted one or both sets of parents (pre-kids). Since we moved to Iowa in 2006, though, we’ve always had Thanksgiving at my husband’s Grandpa and Step-Grandma’s house. His grandpa died last year, however, and his Step-Grandma isn’t able to host the enormous group that the two families were in her new apartment. So we won’t have the big extended Thanksgiving we’ve had for the last 5 years.

Instead, we’re enjoying Thanksgiving at my Mother-in-Law’s house. We’ll have my daughter in a spica cast and her 10-year-old cousin who has hip dysplasia surgery on both hips tomorrow and will be in a wheelchair. Sara is in fine spirits after her surgery and I hope her cousin will be doing well by next week, too.

None of that has anything to do with my Thanksgiving Menu, I guess, but I felt like writing it! ๐Ÿ™‚ I won’t be making all of these dishes this year, but this is my standard Thanksgiving fare when I am in charge of the meal. I’ll be sharing some of the recipes in the next few days:

World’s Best Turkey
World’s Easiest Crock Pot Ham
Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole
Rosemary, Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Grandma’s Best Three Bread Stuffing
Mandarin Orange and Almond Salad
Whole Grain Artisan Bread
Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan Cheese
Cranberry & Orange Relish
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Real Whipped Cream
Apple Pie with Homemade Ice Cream

What do you eat for Thanksgiving? I’d love to know! I’m linking up to Simple Lives Thursday, Real Food Wednesday, and

Diapering with a Spica Cast

Diapering with a spica cast no fun. In fact, it’s pretty horrible. Here’s what I learned about diapering with a spica cast when my toddler was treated for hip dysplasia.

I’m not going to lie to you. Diapering with a spica cast is a massive pain. I can’t use my normal cloth diapers because I need something that keeps moisture out of the cast. I’m bummed about that, but I’m getting over it. I can’t do it all. If I could, I would’ve fixed her blasted hip myself and avoided this cast altogether!!

Diapering with a Spica Cast

Everything I read before Sara had her surgery (except from one person) was that full diapering would not be possible. People suggested incontinence pads and smaller diapers than normal. They said to cut the tabs off the diapers and just stuff those little diapers and pads up and in the cast as best I could.

Well, one person said to me in passing that she was able to diaper fully (meaning she got a normal sized diaper up in the cast and fully closed around her baby’s skin) and I hoped I would be so lucky. It seems to me diapering fully will give us the best shot at keeping that monster of a cast dry. It’s on for 12 weeks, after all.

I know I’m lucky as far as Sara’s cast is concerned. I’ve seen pictures of casts that come up almost to the underarms. I don’t think any diaper would be tall enough to fully diaper if she were casted like that. Sara’s cast comes up just over her belly button.

We’re now two weeks into the spica cast, and I think I’ve got a pretty good system down. The first week was really hard because she was swollen from the surgery. I could hardly get a little pad up in the cast the first few days. I thought I was doing a good job diapering until about day 5 when that cast started to smell. We had a blow-out pooh and I pulled poop covered stuffing out the back and front and realized the whole cast was soaked. Not good!!

After that 45 minute diaper change, and with the help of my sister, we devised a new diapering system. So far so good. Cast is dry and Sara seems happy. And best of all, the cast doesn’t stink much worse than it did on day 5. Or, I have just grown immune to it. That’s always possible! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s what works for us. No baby was harmed in the taking of these pictures…

First you need supplies:


  • 2 diapers (In the beginning, it was important that the diaper be super thin. Pampers worked best for me. But now, after practice (and probably because I’ve taken out a bit of stuffing),ย  I’m able to get the fatter diapers in there too.
  • Flashlight to check out the skin inside the cast . For obvious reasons, you want to be very careful to keep the skin free of sores and rashes. Skin has a really hard time staying dry in that cast if the cast itself is soaked.
  • Blow dryer (or cast cooler) to dry out the cast in the case of leaks.
  • Back scratcher or other long, thin “poker” to help get the diaper in place
  • Good quality wipes. I wanted to use my cloth wipes, but they were too thick and I like that store bought wipes have a little alcohol to wick away extra moisture. Under normal circumstances, I would not like that added alcohol, but they’re good for this application.


Once you’ve got your supplies and your baby cleaned, stick a diaper up the front, pull it out the top, and spread the diaper out, and then pull it back down into place:


Fluff out the bottom – pulling the sides out. You don’t want the sides turned under and stuck up your baby’s rear and potentially leaking:


Stick the sides inside the spica. Again, make sure they they’re out and not tucked under baby’s tooshie:


Then start stuffing the back of the diaper as far up the back of the spica as you can reach. This is the tough part for me. After you get it tucked up as far as you can from the front, flip your baby over and try to get it from the top of the back of the cast. We make the flip part fun. I count to three, rock her hips back and forth, and we laugh as I turn her over on to her belly.

I can never reach the diaper at first, so here’s where the back scratcher comes in very handy. Being VERY CAREFUL (if you’ve got bulky rings you may want to take them off so you don’t scratch your baby), poke the back scratcher up the back of the cast and push the diaper out. Even with the poker I have to stick my hand down quite far in the cast to get the diaper. I take my rings off because otherwise I’ll hurt her. Yes, you can laugh if you want. Or you can cry with me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I vacillate between the two emotions.


After you’ve got the back of the diaper up to the top and have spread it out, flip your baby over, find the tabs, and connect the diaper! Now, you can put a second diaper on the outside of the cast. I’m not exactly sure why it’s necessary if you’re able to diaper fully. If you can’t diaper fully, that second diaper is there to catch any leaks. But it does soften the cast a little and makes holding her a little more comfortable so I sometimes have the second diaper on there. I reuse it if it’s clean (which it normally is).

Then, hope to high heaven that your baby doesn’t start grunting the second you get the diaper fastened because you’ll need to rest for a few minutes before wanting to tackle that again! ๐Ÿ™‚


When changing the diaper, you’ll want to make sure you close the tabs again after you unfasten the diaper. Otherwise, they may get stuck on your baby’s skin and hurt when you pull that diaper out. Trust me, babies don’t like that! Also, if the diaper is poopy, you want to try to get as much poop covered with a wipe as possible. You don’t want to smear the poop inside the back of the cast where you can’t get it. Changing a poop covered diaper in a spica cast is not for the faint of heart. I’m glad I used cloth diapers before, not sure why, but maybe they helped a little with the ick factor? I’m just glad she doesn’t poop as much as she pees. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And that’s it. Have you diapered a baby in a spica cast? What are your secrets??

To read the rest of our hip dysplasia journey, click here.

How to Make Mango Porcupines Your Kids Will Love!

My kids love mangoes. And their favorite way to eat them? Cut into mango porcupines. Learn how to cut mango porcupines with this easy tutorial.

how to make mango porcupines

How to Make Mango Porcupines

Funny thing about mangoes. For some reason they can cause quite a few fights at my house. Who knew mangoes could cause such a stir? I finally starting buying four at a time every time I buy them so the each of my four kids gets his or her own. The thought is, if they each have their own, we won’t have problems arise. But we still have problems, wouldn’t you know. For some reason, everyone wants to argue about who gets which part of the mango.

I don’t even really like mangoes, so the hullabaloo over mangoes is so strange to me! Since my kids love them and they’re on the Clean 15 List, I happily buy them when they cost 99 cents or less, which they often do this time of year. Even though my kids are older now, they still love them cut up so they look like porcupines. Here’s how to make your own mango porcupine!

how to make a mango porcupine

After you’ve washed the mango, cut it into thirds. This is the only tricky part because there’s a great big seed in the middle and I’m never quite sure where that sucker is hidden. But if you hold your mango just so, you can tell to slice it longways instead of short ways. Cutting it longways will yield the nicest sides for making porcupines.

Then, score the two seedless halves:
score mango to make the mango porcupine

And flip them inside out pushing up with your thumbs. When the kid are finished eating them, this is what you’ll have left:
eaten mango

Don’t forget to give someone the third section with the seed. My kids love cleaning off that piece, too.

What do you think of mangoes? Love them or hate them? Do you have a favorite way to eating them? My kids also love frozen mango chunks as much as fresh mango. They add them to smoothies and eat them by the handful!

mango porcupines

If you like this post on Mango Porcupines, you might like these too:

Use up Ripe Bananas with this Homemade Banana Bar Recipe

Fresh Fruit Waffle Cones make a quick super snack

Homemade 100% Fresh Fruit Popsiclesย 


Whole Wheat – Sunflower – Flax Bread


I love a nutty, crunchy, flavorful, homemade bread! And I’m always changing my master bread recipe to come up with something different and new. Today, I made a Whole Wheat – Sunflower – Flax bread.

I used my Master Recipe here and simply added two additional ingredients to my tried and true recipe:The result was a fabulous bread! I’ll be making this recipe again. I love the crunch of the sunflower seeds and the rich, full flavor of the freshly ground hard red wheat. Really, I think I’d survive just fine with homemade bread and a stick of butter. ๐Ÿ™‚


To my standard recipe I added:

2 cups raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds, ground

Here’s the rest of the recipe:

5 cups warm water
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup honey
1 heaping Tbsp. salt – I use Real Salt Sea Salt
1 heaping Tbsp. Dough Enhancer
10 cups ground wheat flour – I used hard red wheat for this recipe
3 Tbsp. Saf-Yeast Instant Yeast
A couple cups additional flour

Mix dough in Bosch on low speed. Quickly add as much additional flour as needed for the dough to pull away from the side of the bowl so that the sides of the bowl come clean. Mix it for 5 minutes. Oil hands and counter well, divide dough into 5 loaves and let rise in loaf pans, sprayed with non-stick spray. Let rise for approx. 30 minutes until they have doubled in size. Turn oven down to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes.