Monday, September 26, 2016

The Bondi Top Pattern Review

I have a friend named Lindsey Rae who designs patterns, and I have been a pattern tester for her in 
the past (see my Noosa Shift Dress Pattern Review). Her patterns are amazingly simple, well-written, thoroughly tested, and flattering on any figure. 

The Bondi Top was the pattern that really launched her career as a designer, so I have been excited to try it out. I finally made my first Bondi Top a couple of weeks ago, and I loved it so much that I made myself 2 more!

Why I love this pattern: 
  • It is downloadable (available HERE from Etsy). Pattern downloads are super easy to store and replicate if you want to make new sizes. 
  • It is adjustable for size AND length. I have a long torso, so I added 2 inches to the length and loved the result!
  • It is a tad bit longer in the back than the front, which makes for a flattering fit. 
  • It has a contrasting fabric option. Don't you LOVE the additional print design on each of the shirts?! 
  • And probably my favorite feature: It requires NO notions. No zippers, buttons, ties, or hooks. Just fabric and thread. 

I used 3 different types of fabric for my shirts: lightweight cotton for the yellow and blue shirt above; rayon for the next shirt pictured; and a woven cotton/poly fabric for the third shirt. 

Similar lightweight cottons to those in my yellow and blue shirt can be found HERE.

 This silky rayon is dreamy to wear. It was more time-consuming to sew because I had to pin more since the fabric is more slippery, but it was worth every minute. Similar fabric can be found HERE

This was such a fun fabric. It has that Aztec/Peruvian blanket or poncho style, but is less heavy. Similar woven fabric can be found HERE. The contrast fabric is a woven cotton linen/twill; similar (but without print) found HERE.

My colorful and original jewelry is from one of my favorite charities, African Promise Foundation. I know the founder and can vouch for this organization's commitment to bettering the lives of the less-fortunate through beautiful hand-made jewelry sales. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Better than Trader Joe's PB & J Bars

If you like Trader Joe's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars, I promise you will LOVE these! They are wholesome, gluten-free, surprisingly filling, and downright YUMMY. 

Not to bag on Trader Joe's bars. They are good. My kids will eat them, as will I. But in a side-by-side comparison, these are tastier.

One thing I LOVE about this recipe is that it makes a TON, so you get a big reward for your relatively short time investment. They will fill a large cookie sheet or 9x13 AND 11x15 baking dishes. These bars keep for days (if you can keep hands off), and they are tasty served cold, medium or warm. 

The recipe involves an oat-based peanut-butter cookie dough on the bottom, your choice of jam, jelly or preserve in the middle, and more of the peanut-butter cookie on top! 

A couple of notes for the preparation process. This recipe has baking soda in it, which is the spreading leavener (baking powder is the rising leavener). So when you put the top layer of peanut-butter cookie dough on the jam layer and you see a ton of holes, no worries!! The dough will spread a it cooks.  (Before-baking pictures above; After pictures below)

Now, on to the recipe!

Better than Trader Joe's 
PB&J Bars
Makes 72 bars

3 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1.5 cups natural peanut butter
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups oat flour (4 cups oatmeal pulsed in blender or food processor until smooth)
3 cups oatmeal
2 cups jam, jelly, or preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray large cookie sheets or baking pans with cooking spray. (This recipe will make thick bars on a 14"x18" cookie sheet, or thinner bars on more pans. I like to use one 9x13 and one 10x15 baking dish.)
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add peanut butter and mix until smooth. 
3. Mix baking soda into wet mixture. Stir in oat flour, then oatmeal. Dough will be thick, but still sticky. 
4. Spoon half of the dough into prepared pans. Dip the back of a spoon or your fingers in cold water and spread the mixture so it is covering the bottom of all your pans in an even layer.  Set the other half of the mix aside. 
5. Spoon the jam on to the bottom layer in small spoon fulls all around. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it in an even layer. 
6. Cover the jam layer with the remaining cookie dough by spooning small amounts all over the top. (See the pictures above for reference)
7. Bake 30-40 minutes, until edges are brown and top is light brown. Middle will still look wet and bubbly, but will settle as it cools. Cool completely before cutting into bars. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Keeping Kids off Screens Printables

School is back in session, and as a mother of four school-aged children, I have made some New (School) Year's Resolutions. Shamelessly, I will share them here: 
  1. I will actually open my children's backpacks each afternoon and see what is in their take home folders.
  2. I will read school emails (including attachments!).
  3. I will take and enforce measures to limit my children's screen time.
  4. I will implement a plan to help my children exercise every day, even when the weather is bad.

If you don't struggle with any of the above 4 items, then a big pat on the back to you for being a more responsible mom than me.  I usually start strong, but by mid October I deserve about a C+ in any of these subjects. This year I am determined that I will be better. And one way I am taking action is by displaying these posters in my kitchen. I am truly enforcing the rules of what must be completed before screens.  

I began this quest by making these handwritten signs (shown below). I used scrap cardboard and glued some flat magnets to the back. My husband loved the idea, and suggested I make digital files he could print and laminate for me to make them more durable, so I did!  I went ahead and made my handwritten signs into digital files as well because I still kinda like the homemade look.

I amended the "Before Screens" page from the handwritten to the digital to say "Read 30 Min+" instead of "Read Scriptures 10 Min+."  I did this because while I do want my kids to read scriptures daily, they also enjoy reading other books. The 10 minute amount for scripture study is a challenge we made as a family, so I will include that as part of their 30 minute requirement.

I helped my 6 and 9 year olds go through these exercises yesterday afternoon. I over-estimated how many sit-ups they could do and how long they could hold planks and wall-sits.  I told them (and I'm now telling you) that if you can't do the amount shown on the poster now, just do as many as you can, and you can work up to the amounts here over time.  We turned on a fun Pandora station (I recommend "Everything is Awesome Radio"), and soon they were sweaty little bootcampers in our living room! We put a timer on in the kitchen so they would know when 30 minutes was up, but by about half-way through, they were so into the exercises, they weren't concerned with the timer. :)

Ideally, I want my kids to enjoy exercise outside playing pick-up soccer games in the cul-de-sac or riding bikes and scooters, but unfortunately that doesn't always work out. This way they can stay active, get stronger, and learn to enjoy exercise even when it is not perfect weather.