Guest Chef Nicole Seitler shares her family's favorite meal

I have been patiently waiting to share this recipe from Nicole Seitler: White Chili! Doesn't it look delicious?! Read more for details about this family favorite that Nicole created! 

 White Chili
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Emily's visit!

Emily and I met through my Live Journal, the site where I blogged before we started this website. We became friends a couple years ago and had talked about meeting in person, since we only live a couple hours away from each other, but had never made the time and visited! Emily is a sweet, thoughtful, and Godly lady and I've been blessed by her friendship! I'm always so inspired by her desire to grow and mature as a Christian, wife, and mom, and by her honest and sincere faith in God.

You can probably imagine how excited I was when her van pulled into our driveway early this afternoon! After a short bit of getting acquainted and getting lunch set up, we sat down to eat. We had grilled chicken salad and homemade alfredo with pasta.

Our lunch: chicken salad

I wasn't going to take a picture of my plate, but after I finally got it thrown together (I kept jumping up to change diapers, etc.!) it looked so colorful I just had to take a picture. It tasted delicious: I had cooked up some garbanzo beans (chick peas) and we had other "treats" like multi-colored peppers, tomatoes, and chow mein noodles. Yum!!

We cleaned up the kitchen and spent the afternoon chatting, in between running after children, settling disputes between children, taking children to the bathroom, changing children's diapers, disciplining children, and anything else you can imagine having to do with children. ;) Let's just say that as much as I had hoped it to be a relaxing visit for Emily, we were both running around trying to keep everyone happy :D. I think having four little boys in the house was pretty wild :D. Wild, but fun! Matthew (3) is such a sweetie! I loved talking to him. Andrew (1) made the cutest faces, and toddled around trying to keep up with everything that was going on. :) Yehoshua (2) of course loved every minute! :) Joshua and I both thought that Matthew and Andrew were very well-behaved, and particularly so considering that Andrew had missed his nap. :)

Tammy, Emily, and the children

Here we all are in the living room. I'm on the left, holding Eliyahu. Then there's Emily, holding Andrew and Matthew, and Yehoshua at the far right. I was surprised at how big Andrew was! I always thought of him as a baby, but here he was, the same size as Yehoshua! He was so cute. Actually, both children are cuter in person than the pictures show, and Emily is really pretty!

Yehoshua and Matthew, talking

Here you see Matthew talking on Yehoshua's "phone", and Yehoshua getting ready to serve Matthew some tea with garlic salt in it. :D

Our pizza, before it was baked 

We made pizza for dinner. Emily helped me with this. Yehoshua was in the background, helping by trying to pick at the crust! Then Matthew tried to lick it! Seriously, the crazy things kids do!!! :D

We went outside for a while, and Joshua took a few pictures of Emily and me together. Here's a photo of us: I'm on the left, holding Eliyahu. Emily is holding Andrew, PLUS their new baby girl who is due in September!! Isn't that exciting?! :D

Tammy (with Eliyahu) and Emily (with Andrew + new baby!)

They were able to stay until about 7 pm. YHWH blessed us with such a fun, full day. :) Isn't He great to send friends our way?! :D

New recipes added, company coming, haircuts, etc. :)

Strawberry Cream Frozen Dessert

We've been busy in the kitchen (and everywhere else, as usual!) and I've been able to add several new recipes in the past few days. Be sure to check out out newest dessert, Strawberry Cream Frozen Dessert (pictured above), as well as my mom's delicious Chicken Gravy & Drop Biscuits which she served to us on Friday. I got creative the other day and came up with (what I thought was) a yummy way to eat chicken and broccoli: Cheesy Veggie Chicken Pasta. And last night, Joshua and I made some Summer Strawberry Lemonade. I never realised how difficult it was to take a good picture of a glass of lemonade! It tasted even better than it looked and didn't even last through the evening. :)

So besides cooking, what have I been doing?

I've been so bored. Wink

For one thing, I figured out that I spend probably 2 hours per day, just changing diapers. I nurse Eliyahu, which is probably 3+ hours per day. I usually take a walk in the monrings, which takes at least 45 minutes.

This morning, however, I was snoozing away when I heard pounding at the front door. In my groggy state of mind (staying up half the night working on websites will do that to a person!) I wondered, "Who could that be?!" I was in the office (on the couch feeding Eliyahu) and there wasn't a clock nearby (and it was overcast outside) so I had no idea that it was actually already 7:25 am and that I was missing out on my morning walk! Surprised

I answered the door and embarrassedly told my friend that I had overslept. There was no way I could get both kids ready (who were now both awake!) in time to go on our walk.

So, I made energy bars instead. :) Yeah, it's always a good idea to skip exercising for cooking. Laughing

I went to my mom's today and picked fresh raspberries, taught piano and violin lessons, and gave Yehoshua a haircut (with assistance). He looks so much better! Haircuts are so traumatic for little boys, though, and I'm not sure why. Yehoshua's last haircut was given by my brother Richard, and it went really well. Today's haircut made me decide that I will HAVE to have Richard do future ones... at least, until Yehoshua can sit still and not cry. Richard gives good haircuts. The one I gave looks a little weird. Oh well... could be worse. Innocent

Does anyone like the emoticons, or are they tacky? Smile

So, I came home to a packet of tea in the mail and a kitchen full of dirty dishes. It's always good to get home. Yehoshua even helped me with all the dishes. Can't have those sitting around tomorrow when we get company!

We're having some pretty exciting guests tomorrow: one of my online friends from Michigan is coming with her two boys! Guess I better dust the living room. Embarassed

Tea Review: Yogi Tea DeCaffe Roast and Vanilla Hazelnut

Yogi Tea: DeCaffe Roast and Vanilla Hazelnut

My friend Candy sent me samples of these two kinds of "tea". Actually, neither contain tea, and as such are caffeine-free. I have had various Yogi Teas before, and enjoy the quality taste and different flavors. In my experience, Yogi Teas are quite strong and usually spicy, and these are no different. If you like chai, you will like these teas!

The first, DeCaffe Roast, is a coffee substitute. Because I never drink coffee, I am not qualified to tell whether it tastes much like coffee. To me, it smells a little like coffee (yum!). It's rather peppery, and leaves some spice in your mouth :). Yehoshua smelled this tea and said "Nana!" I'm not sure if that was due to the smell (she likes coffee) or the fact that it was in "her" cup. :) Anyway, it's a good, flavorful tea, and I quite enjoyed my cup of it. 

The second tea I tried was called Vanilla Hazelnut. This, too, was a spicy dark brew, and slightly sweet-tasting (particularly when tasted after the DeCaffe Roast tea). I must admit to not tasting much vanilla flavor in this tea; it was delicious nonetheless.

Either of these teas are a great way to start or end a day, caffeine-free, smooth, and dark. Yum! I can't wait to have that second bag of Vanilla Hazelnut Candy sent :)

Some good kitchen tips and ideas from Crystal

My friend Crystal posted some great kitchen tips and meal ideas in her blog! Be sure to check them out here (menu ideas and tips) and here (sample simple menu)!  

Cloth diapering: my method, ideas, and tips, with photos!

I'd like to start by saying what a blessing cloth diapers have been to our family. I remember the excitement of pinning a cloth diaper onto Yehoshua for the first time, when he was a few weeks old... and then later the realization that cloth diapering (or changing diapers, period!) was a never-ending process and everyday part of my life. :)

My cloth diapers have been a blessing, first of all, because they were all gifts. I think 6 different people have helped build up my diaper supply (mostly at the baby shower for Yehoshua) by giving me diapers. I was even given some Gerber vinyl covers, which lasted for a long time with Yehoshua and finally wore out with Eliyahu. I have a variety of different thicknesses and kinds of cloth pre-folds (the most basic, cheapest variety of cloth diaper) and have so many that I can wash a full load of diapers and still have some for the baby to wear!

Cloth diapers have also been a blessing financially. I use cloth diapers for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason, I confess, is financial. Even buying the least expensive disposable diapers, and changing the child infrequently, is still more expensive than cloth diapering. If I can avoid spending money every week for disposable diapers (and then spending money on trash pick-up to get rid of them!) we actually do save a lot. (Yes, even including extra water and electric costs and washing machine wear.)

I like the feeling of soft clean cotton against my baby's skin, and being able to change my baby whenever he wets without worrying about how many diapers we're going through. The clean diapers smell so fresh and nice, unlike disposables (which in my opinion stink unless they have perfumes added, which is probably bad for the baby!). I don't mind doing the extra laundry; it's a nice feeling to have a basket full of clean dry diapers, waiting to be used again.

And, it's nice to know that I'm not creating a lot of waste. The average child goes through 7,000 diapers before they're potty trained. That's a lot of waste when it's all in disposables in a landfill. I like washing my diapers. The "waste" goes down the drain and the trashcan doesn't stink. (At least, not from diapers. :D) And can I tell you how nice it is to not need to empty the trash every night because it's smelling up the downstairs?! Better yet, I don't even need to take out the trash anymore because it's all either recyclable, compost, or burnable! :)

And, too, the age-old arguments of the convenience of not having to buy big packages of diapers, and never "running out" of diapers (though there have been times where I was so far behind in things that I was running out of clean ones :D).

I think cloth diapers are more work than disposables. So I'm not going to argue that they're easier. In some ways, yes, they are. But not in every way. For us, the benefits and blessings have outweighed the extra work (which isn't maybe as much as you'd imagine).

I enjoyed using cloth diapers with Yehoshua, and planned to use them with Eliyahu as well. With both children, I have used disposables for the first few weeks, particularly at night, while I was adjusting to new schedules and recovering from the birth. Newborns are so unpredictable (at least, mine were) but after a few weeks, we were settled into somewhat of a schedule.

What I didn't know with Eliyahu (at first, anyway), was that he was sensitive to something (still don't know what, exactly) in disposable diapers. By his third day of life, he was already starting to get diaper rash. It continued despite all my efforts to get rid of it. Someone had given us a package of Huggies diapers, and I somehow realised that when we used that brand, his rash got better. We used Huggies and the rash did start clearing up noticeably within about 12 hours. I tried a number of different brands of disposable diapers, and all caused an awful rash. Huggies diapers, even with coupons, were outrageously expensive, so to cloth we went.

Eliyahu hasn't had a single rash since we started using cloth diapers. Yehoshua only got diaper rash once when he was a baby, and I discovered it was due to some detergent residue in the diapers. I have had such good success with cloth diapering. My house doesn't stink, and I know that my children are in soft, dry, nice-smelling diapers. (I never understood why people used the term "paper diapers" for disposable diapers, until I used cloth for a while and then felt a disposable!)

So there's some back ground for you; just my personal thoughts and why we personally like cloth. Now, for the how-to!

I have a kind of diaper called a "pre-fold". There are a lot of "fancy" (and expensive!) very nice cloth diapers out there. I haven't had experience with them, so I won't be talking about them in this article. (As a side note, I have used flat-fold diapers, and don't mind them, but pre-folds do save me time, so I sewed all of my flat-fold diapers into pre-folds.) Pre-folds are the cheapest, most-durable, and easiest-to-wash diapers. They require some sort of waterproof cover, like the Gerber vinyl covers sold at Wal-mart (which I don't recommend--keep reading). 

Prefolded diapers in varying thicknesses

Here is a picture of some of my pre-folded diapers. At the top left, you see a very thin diaper with a washcloth folded in thirds and laid in the center, to increase the absorbency. At the top right, there is one of Eliyahu's nighttime diapers, which is really just two thinner diapers with a washcloth folded inside. The bottom right diaper is a fairly thin daytime diaper for Eliyahu, and the bottom left is Yehoshua's daytime diaper, a medium-thick one.

You can probably see that there isn't really one right way to "do" cloth diapers, at least with pre-folds. I take whatever I have and make it into the absorbency I need. Washcloths are great for increasing the absorbency without increasing the bulk too much.

Here is how I fold my "pre-folds":

Diaper waiting to be folded

   Sides in...

Front up a little...   ...and front up the rest of the way.

This much folding would be good for a very small baby. A larger child would need very little of the front folded under (step 3). The diapers can be folded to fit whatever size baby you have, which is one of the reasons that pre-folds are more economical than fitted diapers, where a variety of sizes are needed.

Diaper covers

Here are some diaper covers. These are the four different kinds I have. There are other, "fancier" covers with which I haven't had experience, so do your research and check your budget and make choices based on what's best for you. I'm just writing about what has worked for me. :)

At the top left, you see a diaper cover that opens at the sides and has snaps. The snaps are very nice, and adjustable (so it fits while the baby grows!), and there's some airflow at the sides because of the snaps. These are all very good features. Side opening = no poop on baby's legs. Adjustable snaps = fits baby longer. Airflow at sides = less chance of rashes. The only slight issue with this cover is that sometimes during a long nap it will leak, especially if the diaper inside isn't as absorbent as it should have been.

At the top middle, you see a Gerber vinyl diaper cover. These can be found at Wal-mart, and they are cheap for a reason. They do work well, but they don't last long at all. If you buy these, you can almost plan on replacing them in a couple months' time. I have found that when these covers crack, plastic tape can be placed over the cracks and will go through the washer and last for a while longer. I don't throw mine away until they are beyond tape-repair. :)

At the bottom of the photo, there is a velcro cover. This cover is vinyl, with cotton cloth on the outside. It has velcro, and elastic around the waist, so it's adjustable and comfortable. There are a lot of great things about this cover (like the first cover mentioned) but a few drawbacks. The cotton on the outside wicks moisture from the edges of the diaper. Velcro wears out a lot faster than snaps, even when it's washed correctly. And this cover tends to leak during naps or nighttime use.

At the very right is my favorite diaper cover. I purchased these nylon diaper covers when my vinyl ones all wore out in the smaller sizes. I can't say enough good things about this cover. It doesn't leak. It's still fairly soft. It's machine-washable. It's affordable. It doesn't wear out. If I have to buy more covers, I plan to get this kind. At $2 each, they're much cheaper than the very nice ones. 

cloth diaper wipes

And the last of my supplies: cloth wipes. If you're washing diapers, you may as well wash wipes, too. And it's so much cheaper and nicer than buying the commercially made ones laden with ingredients I can't pronounce. Top left is a plain white washcloth, top right is some inexpensive baby washcloths. Bottom right is some homemade washcloths which were a gift to me, and bottom left is unhemmed wipes cut from old baby bath towels and socks.

You can also make homemade baby wipes using Bounty paper towels, boiling water, a little baby bath soap, and olive oil. I have made those in the past, but I find it simpler to just use washcloths with plain water.

Eliyahu, getting a clean diaper put on  Eliyahu, with a clean diaper

Here is what the diaper looks like when it's pinned on. I prefer regular pins because they hold well. (I've never poked the baby, though I have poked my own finger a couple times!) I do have a snappi but it won't snag most of my diapers and I'm so clumsy at using it anyway. I know others who love snappis, so I think it's a matter of preference. :)

Cloth diaper covered with Dappi Nylon Diaper Cover Clothes snapped up over diaper

Here is the diaper, covered with a Dappi (brand) nylon cover. And, the happy baby, all snapped up :).

So, my basic supplies are: cotton pre-folded diapers, nylon diaper covers, and a pair of diaper pins.

Optional supplies for me include rectangular fleece liners (cut from an old blanket) which can be used to line the diaper so the baby feels dry; I don't mind using them but found that they were more bother to hang on the clothesline than they were really worth.

Now for the exciting part: washing and drying cloth diapers.

I want to be sure to mention that cloth diapers is just another part of parenting, and your method will probably depend more on your circumstances, such as your house or lifestyle, rather than a certain "right" or best way. I have changed how I do things several times. Here is a basic overview:

With a baby who is exclusively breastfed, diapers can just be thrown into the washer. Do a pre-soak/rinse, and then your normal wash cycle with an extra rinse. I did this with Yehoshua, and it saved me a lot of time (rather than washing out all the poopy ones). With Eliyahu, he likes to fill his diaper only once every day or two, so I wash his out in the toilet since they're so full and far between. :) With a child who is eating solid foods, diapers need to be rinsed/scrubbed out in the toilet.

I have always done a "dry pail" which means I don't keep any water in my diaper pail. I do sometimes toss some baking soda in the pail with the diapers, but not always.

The night before I plan to wash the diapers, I put them in the washer and start it (cold water). I leave the lid up so it washed and then just soaks. The next morning, I continue the wash, adding a small amount of detergent and some baking soda. Then I do a second wash/rinse (warm/cold) with plain water (no more soap). This gets the diapers nice and clean. If I remember, I add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the final rinse water, as a natural fabric softener and to combat hard-water smell.

And lastly, if at all possible, I hang the diapers (and covers!) out in the sun. Any stains on the diapers magically disappear after a few hours in the sun, leaving bright white diapers and somehow also helping combat the likelihood of diaper rash. Sun-drying diapers is the way to go if at all possible.

My clean basket of diapers and pail of dirty ones...

This is the usual state of my diaper supply: a laundry basket full of unfolded clean diapers, and a pail of dirty ones. I love to have my diapers all folded and stacked neatly. With both children still in diapers, I use about 25 diapers + 10 wipes/washcloths/liners each day. I have about a 3-day supply of diapers. All my efforts at folding and neatly stacking are used up within 48 hours. So for now, I just store them in the basket and grab what I need. The exception is that I do fold nighttime diapers, so I can change Eliyahu during the night with minimal effort. (I change him on the bed in the dark!)

Combatting Diaper Rash

Here are some things I have found useful for keeping diaper rash away:

1. Change baby frequently. Check for wet diapers all the time, and change as often as needed!

2. When changing a diaper, gently pat (not rub) the diaper area with a soft dry washcloth, removing any excess moisture. Allow baby's bottom to completely air-dry between diaper changes; don't just stick a new diaper on right away. Give baby a toy to occupy him during this length of time :D

3. Switch covers. Diaper covers that were used for wet diapers don't need to be washed after every use. However, they should be air-dried between uses. I usually have 2-3 covers "in rotation" so I always have a dry one to put on the baby.

4. Make sure you use very little detergent when you wash your diapers. Very little. Open your washer and look to see if there are soap suds in your final rinse. You might be surprised at how far a little detergent goes.

5. Don't use perfumed detergent. Don't use fabric softener (ever!!).

6. Give your diapers as much sunlight as possible.

7. Use only water when you clean baby's bottom. Be sure to air-dry after you've washed baby's bottom AND when changing wet diapers (which don't require wipes). Allow baby's bottom as much exposure to the fresh air as is possible. My diaper changes usually take 5-15 minutes.

8. If the rash is really bad, lengthen the amount of fresh air it receives. Consider using a little rash ointment for your baby's comfort. (Try not to get the ointment on the cloth diaper, though, as it's nearly impossible to wash out!) Switch to disposables if needed, so you can use a more liberal amount of ointment without ruining your cloth diapers.

This has gotten long, and I'm sure I haven't covered everything! If you have questions, please leave comments and I will either reply to your comment or edit my post. There are also some great websites about cloth diapering, such as diaper safari, the diaper hyena, and diaper pin.

Keeping busy, as usual: post ideas and Eliyahu update

Today I made a grilled cheese loaf. It's a unique addition to a grilled meal. I like the oven version, too! That loaf is my cousin Greg's favorite; I try to make it when I know he's comnig over. :) He didn't come over today, but I had leftover bread from yesterday's stuffed shells and garlic bread.

Friday was a busy day. We went to visit my parents in the evening, and got home about 9:00. After getting the children off to bed, I fell into bed myself, happy to enjoy a Sabbath break from working on this website and other duties.

The children both awoke early on Sabbath, which was just as well, since I was supposed to go walking with my friend at 7 anyway. We had a nice walk and I tried to relax all day (even though I had a huge basket of laundry setting on the kitchen floor!)... and  think I succeeded. :) I even got a little nap in on the couch while I nursed Eliyahu, and Joshua read Bible stories to Yehoshua. :)

Today I went walking again in the morning, and then puttered around the house, making meals, taking care of children, and trying to catch up on all the things that seem to so quickly pile up. :)

I hope to find time to do some more serious (thoughtful) blogging this week. Some topics I want to post about are exercise, cooking meals in advance (freezer, canning, or dehydrating tips), managing meals with small children to care for, and cloth diapering (I just received another email asking for tips and more info on my methods... so I think I'll finally write about it!). Stay tuned! :)

Eliyahu was being soooo cute yesterday, and Joshua took some photos of him. Here are two of the best ones:

Eliyahu, 6 months
Eliyahu, 6 months

Eliyahu turned 6 months old yesterday! He has two teeth (which he got in about 6 weeks ago already!) and his hair is still thinning. ;) He giggles, and he loves toys. He goes wild when he wants a toy (and Yehoshua is good at taking them away from him :| :D) and has learned how to maneuver his walker over to the telephone cord already! :D

Well, I'm off to bed! Good night! :)

Contest Details for the Month of July!

Contest Details!

On August 1, we will be having a drawing! Everyone who has registered a user account for this site will be entered. Three names will be drawn, and three people will each receive an assortment of tea (20 different individually wrapped teabags) along with a 16 oz. ziplock bag of homemade granola!

Entering our contest couldn't be simpler! If you've already registered on this site, then you will be automatically entered. If you haven't registered yet, just sign up. All you need to enter is your email address and a username; then go check your email and verify the account. It's that simple!

Winners will be notified by email. Thanks for participating! :)

 assorted teabags Homemade Granola

Introducing Guest Chef Bonnie Faber of Ohio!

Bonnie's Strawberry pie!

I'm excited to introduce our newest guest chef, Bonnie Faber of Ohio! Bonnie is sharing several of her favorite things to cook: Strawberry Pie (shown above), Tuna Noodle Casserole (a recipe she created herself!), and Caramel Pecan Rolls (a sweet treat that's sure to delight!).

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