25 days of Christmas crafts

As promised, Christmas crafting, toddler style! Some of these are my “brain child” others are cool ones I’ve “googled”…. annnd some are feasible with toddlers others would be a project you could do for them. Happy Christmas crafting!!
1) Popsicle Stick Snowflakes
-toddler approved activity
2) Burlap Stockings
-ok, take 5 min on Pinterest and you will see endless ideas, find me on Pinterest if you want to see my inspiration.
-we went with two “bones” one for each dog, one “fish” for the cat and 4 regular stocking shapes. In total that took just shy of 4 yards of burlap. I lined them with scrap fabric/ old pillow cases. Used ribbon, a few rosettes and handmade bows to add some accents and that was it. You may notice a trend with the burlap here, and yes, I themed all decor around these two teddies, the boys first Christmas ornaments –> A & B xmas teddies
– tip, use a large safety pin to hang the stockings onto command wall hooks- those things are handy!
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divas pretty stocking complete with kitten tootsies;)

3) Mason Jars
– again. Pinterest. Just find what suits your style, from painted to ribbon wrapped or even snow globed the possibilities with mason jars are endless.
4) Paint with Seasonal Cookie Cutters
-pretty straight forward:)
5) Lined Sweatshirt
-I used this pattern though I am not a very gifted seamstress and every time I end up heavily adapting it. (My first attempt at them have not become our art smocks) Use the ” warm and natural” batting and it’s perfect for indoor play clothing.
6) String popcorn, cranberries or cotton puffs or marshmallows
– this is a great motor development type activity that (if they don’t scarf all the food items like my littles did) can double as awesomely cute decor.
7) Sun Catchers
-ok, this one I kinda cheated on, the dollar section at most stores have the tiny craft bin and sometimes they are perfect for breaking up a boring afternoon.
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8) Painting Ornaments
-with one of the littles presents came foam sheets. So, we repurposed and cut snowflakes out of them! Similar foam sheets can be found at most craft stores add swirls of puffy paint for dimension:)
9) Sleeping Bag IMG_3151
-this is actually a rather detailed project, I had a great time with it and as it adapted into its current form I learned more and more about sewing. Plus, I love how it turned out….win/win! Basically this sucker is a very warm padded toddler sleeping mat that rolls into its self; making it nicely portable for those family trips this holiday!
-I used eco felt as the outter layer, “warm and natural” batting as the 2nd inner layer, batting off the bolt from joann fabrics (the second one I went to though, because the first one had such terrible service that we walked out without purchasing anything from our full cart) and the inner layer being grey minky dot fabric. I made the “hood” so that it can flip under the head pillow, adding extra puff, but also wrap around the body off the sleeping bag to roll it up! toddler sleeping bags
10) Hand Painted Wrapping Paper
-you can often find “blank wrapping paper” we went for a basic brown and let the boys splatter paint the whole roll, gave it a gloss spray top coat to make sure the paint didn’t just flake off, let it dry and rolled it back up to await gift wrapping in the next few weeks.
11) Marshmallow Fondant
– ok, this really goes with the cookies so maybe I’m cheating a bit here by using it as two activities…BUT….you would likely have to do this two separate days. If you hadn’t noticed those seasonal cookie cutters come in handy again here πŸ˜‰
12) Paper Garland
– I used extra seasonal scrap paper I had to make the garland. Guiding the boys to “cut” strips and “glue the loops” we actually had a lot of fun with this one.
13) Toilet Paper Roll Wreath
– sounds weird but it’s actually pretty darn cute
14) PVC Snowman
– this was mainly because I built a pvc house for our garage play space and we had it left over. So, find something that you have around your house that is junk but could be a repurposed “craft” for the kiddos.
15) Family Cards
– let the littles finger paint individual cards for family members
16)Cookies
-any kind really will do for this holiday but two tips that have become a must when cookie making in our house; always brown the butter first and used molasses & sugar rather than brown sugar. These two things really add the “wow factor” to the flavor of any cookie!
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17) Felt Snowmen/Reindeer/Santa
– felt is kinda a staple crafting item that we have around so it seemed only natural to do a felt ornament with the boys. We had them decorate a tree….it got a bit messy :0
-glitter, shapes, textures, etc etc etc. this was a great sensory play activity!
18) Splatter Wall Art (red/white/green/gold/silver)
– best to save this messy one for a bath day πŸ˜‰
19) Dress up day/Pictures
– strings of lights, Santa hat & play time
– pretty self explanatory activity that you can have fun with! We always have random strings of lights and the boys find them entertaining but throw some dress up clothes in there and the whole day can be filled.
20) Scarves
-pretty simple infinity scarf for toddlers. I paired a heavy eco-felt and a soft plaid reindeer flannel. And cut based on the littles shoulder width and noggin dimensions.
– make sure you can loop it round the head twice
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21) Pine Cone Hunt
-Well, we had to have at least one activity outside….we live in a well wooded area so no driving needed just step outside and we were off to “match pine comes”
22) Santa Beard
-so, originally I was thinking something like this…..then I saw this….the jury is still out on which we will be making this season.
23) Jammie Pants
– you can find free patterns at just about every online sewing resource. Line them in minky fabric like I did for that extra cozy warm appeal this winter.
24) Gingerbread House
– this one means a special shopping trip as most of the tradition ginger bread house making stuff we don’t even keep in the house anymore. But easy alternative…use the cardboard boxes that all of your holiday presents will be shipping in and build a paper/cardboard house. Or many craft stores not have “kits”
25) Burlap Santa Sack
This project I loved, even though I ended up keeping it super simple it was fun to look at everyone’s ideas. I got the actual sack from amazon for $6.50 for a 40in by 24in bag. And then hand painted it with fabric paints. Using decor ribbon to “tie”. Yay for no more wrapping oddly shaped gifts!IMG_3135-0.JPG

Strawberry fields forever

Ok cheesy -I know- but these fields really did stretch on forever! Scott and I took the littles Strawberry picking at Stades!20140623-222431-80671606.jpgThis farm has a huge summer patch with ample space for picking. Granted, we went on a Monday afternoon but still- with about 20 people there none were even close to us:) 20140623-222434-80674771.jpgwe did find toooons of amazingly sweet juicy strawberries 20140623-222433-80673312.jpgIt was super tricky to juggle the littles and a strawberry bucket…..next time we will be bringing the jogger pod! Or plan on taking turns picking.20140623-222430-80670136.jpgBut we had a wonderful day finding a new summer fav. especially because their market has veggies, and they have a section of farm-attractions for littles! p*s* yes, I did get strawberry stains on the lovely white dress I stupidly wore… BUT…I found out yet another use for vinegar-stain removal! I dropped a splash into the bathroom sink with warm water let it soak for about 20min and voila…no stain:) Sadly, this wasn’t even the “highlight” from the trip, DeeDee took that prize by eating our remote in the 2 hours we were gone. Even though she’s turning 6 next month she’s still a Sassy Lil Lady!

Vinegar and it’s many uses

This cheap addition to your cleaning products is pretty easy (we use it regularly) but I am always amazed but the amount of uses it really has.
Here are a few that we’ve found really handy!

Fruits bath: to rinse fruits after you bring them home from the store I dilute one cup of vinegar to a sink full of water. I’ve found this helps keep fruits just a bit longer.

Floor cleaner: especially for woods it’s a great natural cleaner. I use the cleaner I make but I do have to be sure to dilute it (50/50) otherwise it leaves the floor a bit sticky/tacky.

Drain Cleaner: pretty basic ingredients that are more gentle on your plumbing than drano. And much better for our septic system. We tried it today and it went pretty well! Our drains were moving a little slow and it did the trick.

Weed killer: ok, everyone has probably seen this natural weed killer floating around Facebook. Well, since the end of our driveway is covered in em we thought we’d give it a shot. Works perfect! We bought a 7$ handheld pressure sprayer from Menards. Mixed 1/4c of dawn dishsoap, 1/2c Epsom salt, and 1/2 gallon of vinegar….of course the recipe if relatively flexible and can easily be doubled or cut in half depending on your needs. I hate measuring so this is a plus for me πŸ˜‰

In other news Scott and I rang in the first Saturday of summer doing grill-out with some kid less friends…..while, it was great to get out and everyone was amazing with the kiddos. I think we left more exhausted from chasing the littles all afternoon and quickly remembered why we normally just have family watch them for us to get out. I give major props to the families that go for this scenario because next time we’ll be sticking to the sitter.

DIY Bug Balm

Ok, I love summer, tons!! BUT these BUGS are REDICULOUS. Between the ticks and the Mosquitos I’ve had enough but then we also have flies and gnats….not.cool. Obviously, we don’t want to spray the yard with round up or something crazy like that. But if we couldn’t even enjoy our yard this summer I would be pretty disappointed. So, I pulled out an oldie but goodie-bug balm recipe, I didn’t quite have everything I needed. Here is my 2014 modified bug balm:) I like this update mainly because it has added tick control!
What you’ll need:
*1oz beeswax (we got ours at the locals farmers market!!)
*1/2c coconut oil
*1/2oz Shea or Cocoa butter
*Cheesecloth(or in my case diaper cloth)
*Double boiler
*4oz mason jar
*Rosemary and cinnamon sticks dried
*Essential oils- I used rose geranium for ticks, citronella for mosquitoes, and a touch of lavender and lemongrass ❀ I would suggest looking at mountain rose herbs they are not only organic but also non GMO.
You of course can put different things in to suite your needs 10-15 drops total should suffice.

Mix oils and dried herbs and put in double boiler until completely melted let warm for 30min.
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Strain out herbs through cheese cloth.
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Add beeswax to the melted oil with whatever essential oils and double boil until melted.
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Pour back into your jar and let cool. Voila…bug balm!
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Aaaand the review……this stuff rocks! The convenience of spray is surely trumped by the fact that this stuff lasted a good majority of the day for myself and the kids with no reapplications. Daddy who mowed our jungle with this on did want to reapply after about 4hours. The waxi-ness of it means that it’s mildly waterproof and depending on what oils/butters you use it made our skin wonderfully soft. On the downside it does take a minute to apply it and it takes a bit of work to get it out of the jar….BUT I am sold….I will never buy bug repellants again:)

Green parenting Tips

Obviously, Scott and I have worked really hard to provide a clean diet and a house relatively free from chemicals and “additives” not only for A&B but for us. We still make yogurt and cleaner, see how here, but we have slowly been adding the what we do at home vs. buying.
Bread- pretty self explanatory that you can save money and get better quality with this DIY. While this can be very time consuming we have found homemade bread freezes very nicely, allowing us to make a months worth of bread in one day! We change up recipes but generally make a milk bread(using home made butter and buttermilk). 20140528-095656-35816050.jpg
Butter- another easy-freeze item. Butter, while less time consuming than bread, is still one of my least favorite to make. Whipping heavy cream until it separates/ gets chunky, then pouring the buttermilk into a container to save and finally rinsing the butter under ice cold water (least favorite part) to shape it into a mold. *as a side note it will slosh all over at the end so we also use siran wrap to cover the top of the mixer* We use about 4 pints of heavy whipping cream turned into butter and buttermilk in our house every month.unnamed (141)
Ice cream-*admittedly*we are just learning about this… but, every recipe we have tried either involves cooking or is a cream-cheese-no-cook that tastes well…very cheesey (evidently Wisconsin dairy has spoiled me and I am now an ice cream snob). But, we’ll keep trying recipes and I will keep you posted!
Fruits(citrus)-I love the fruit not only because it’s tasty but we use every part of it! I use the attachment for the kitchenaid to juice them. We then use the rinds of lemons, oranges and grapefruit for the cleaner(with vinegar and cinnamon). I strain the leftover juice with diaper cloths. First, I should clarify by saying we never actually used them as diapers πŸ˜‰ normal people would use cheese cloth though. I’m debating trying to grow the seeds and of course we drink the juice!
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Shampoo/soaps- I know I’ve mentioned it before but soap berries are actually very handy! Recently, I attempted boiling 15 of them in water for about a half hour. The result? A pungent syrup like goop. Smelled rather earthy so I added a few drops of essential oils and viola scented soap(shampoo). The downside of this one is that it apparently needs to be stored in the fridge. I’ve resorted to freezing them in small portions, a caterpillar worth to be exact;) we’ve found that the silicone molds are VERY useful! thanks Fred’s for making fun brain and caterpillar trays!20140528-105058-39058018.jpg
In black and white to hide my dirty counter, the one on the far left is soap:)

DIY raised garden beds

In my short time gardening I have found I do not have that much of a green thumb. But, Im a little too stubborn to give up on growing my own food. So, while I won’t attempt seedlings again(without a grow light)I will plant what seeds we have left in these DIY garden beds!!
After almost 2 months of planning (and changing our plans numerous times) last we set into action! A family member was nice enough to share her book on raised beds and we adapted our design to be similar.
What you’ll need to make one raised 4×4 garden bed:

Supplies
4) 2inx10inx4ft lumber (we used cedar)
4) 4inx4inx8in lumber (again cedar)
32) 3in deck screws
4) 1in dia. x5in pvc
2) 1/2in dia. x10ft pvc

Tools
Power drill
Sawzall

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Placing the 4x4s inside each corner and screwing them in place from the outside of your beds
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The pvc arches over top to be able to cover the beds for critter control will most likely be a necessity in an area like ours. 20140506-194543.jpg
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As you can see we have placed the old monkey bars in the bed and are planning to bury them in for stability. And the jury’s still out on how to secure them together:)


We did transplant the grass to cover the old horse shoe pits we ripped up last weekend.
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Instead of the suggested weed cloth we are trying old cardboard since we had huge chunks from the swing set boxes! We dug in just enough to remove the grass and level the beds.
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After filling it with a layer of compost, vermiculite and peat moss we are ready to go!!….now I just have to dig up 2 more and fill those…..ughhh….at least it’s a work out…did I mention it was 85 degrees today :0

DIY car seat oopsy pad

This projects came about more out of necessity than anything. As you know the guys are potty trained. However, accidents happen…and that includes dumping the camelback full of milk in the car seat. But the silver lining in this was that I was able to repurposed our old waterproof changing pad “mats” into these!
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I folded one in half and cut it to the sizes I needed for my specific car seat, made a sleeve to fit the waterproof mat and voila. Simple as that! I’m loving being able to reuse some baby items the boys have long out grown!

finished products

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Life on a budget

Originally I had thought to do this post on ways to save money with twins. When I sat down to write, I realized, most people are trying to save money either for that vacation you’ve been dying for, the new car you need, or let’s face it just to pay the bills. So, here are a few of our tricks we stick to in order to save some dough.

Freezing- ok, kind of common sense that you can get things on a good sale and stock up. But, often, were not positive what we can actually freeze. We looked up what are big items in our house and found that we could freeze almost all of them!
Buttermilk- butter, milk, and buttermilk
Veggies- peppers, corn etc
Fruits- grapes, fruit purΓ©es are super convenient with the kiddos too.
I found this handy when deciding what I can freeze!

Discounts- we love to do activities with the boys but they can be so expensive. Many zoos, museums, aquariums etc have days that they offer discounts in addition to the school, military/veteran or senior discounts they offer. In many bigs cities they usually offer a free day to residents. If you can handle the crowds, that’s your best bet. If you’re like me and want to sterilize the stupid parents letting their kid hang over bars into the bear enclosure then I would suggest the student, military type discounts and a slow day/time πŸ˜‰

of course DIY
Some things are cheaper to do yourself-others will actually cost you more in the long run. So, list all supplies and what they will cost you. We have a few on the docket right now (including making toddler beds and growing our garden) and will be making good use of the tools Scott stocked up during college:) We also make our own butter, yogurt and house hold cleaner among others! This goes hand in hand with repurposing but keep in mind it is sometimes way cheaper to buy something retail than to make it, do the math first.

Repurposing
Pretty simple idea but often we forget what projects we have going and just want to reduce clutter resulting in something reusable being tossed. So, we’ve started a project binder with correlating totes. Each has a place and when we have an item it gets put with other items for that project and saved. Right now we have the old swing set off to the side in our yard torn into pieces. The monkey bars from that will become a trellis for our garden peas! The rest will be the foundation for a garden box! Saving us about 100$

Wants vs Needs
In an effort to eliminate frivolous spending we have also begun keeping a bill organizer. We save all receipts and tally them as we spend, making us more mindful of where and what’s we spend. you would also be surprised what isn’t absolutely necessary for example, and being another. Now, I’m not sure if I could commit to the TP…but, I have stuck to the anti-shampoo regiment for about a week at a time. I do agree with the link, for the first few days it feels greasy and gets MUCH better over time. Now a bottle of shampoo lasts about 4 months, and my hair is a lot healthier!

Resale
When you are ready to part with certain belongings see if you can sell them first-Craigslist, Ebay and local resale shops are always options. Depending on what it is you may be able to get a few bucks back. Old water heaters, tires and-most recently for us-outgrown baby items! That 30$ pays for a movie tickets on date night

Meal planning
It goes without saying that if you spend 5$ on coffee & 10$ on lunch that by the end of the week or month the cost really adds up. But, if you’re like me eating the same thing every day will get pretty boring. So to tackle that we meal plan different things every week, ie week 1 is salads, week 2 is sandwiches and so on. We also plan for lunches and dinners for 2 week periods. This means we only buy what we need for those meals and since we don’t ever plan for junk food, we just don’t have it in the house:) a win win when trying to eat smart and be budget friendly.

Share your money saving tips!!

Tightening after twins….when diet and exercise just don’t cut it

In light of the fact that I REGULARLY get asked if the twins are even mine I thought I would share some of my beauty secrets.
Let me preface this by saying goals should be realistic and looking like you did in high school or even early college is somewhat far fetched for most …and I’m just going to say it… pathetic. I’m not trying to relive the “glory days” here. That being said it’s not unfair to want to look and feel confident in your own skin.
Like most twin moms in the weeks and months following delivery I was HORRIFIED….why had no one told me I wouldn’t even fit into early pregnancy clothes post csection is still beyond me. The sad fact is that many new moms are never talked to about any post baby stuff during pregnancy to better prepare emotionally and mentally. All I was told was, “you’re young, you’re body will bounce back…” Boy was that doctor WRONG! But, that’s a different topic- what I want to share is how I used natural and cheap methods to become me again!
Post delivery I wasn’t the momma who lost mass amounts in days from breast feeding. Though BF’ing did help shed pounds-it didn’t change the skin or the sag. In my twin pregnancy I gained 28lbs total, I was on the small side, however, I went from a size 00 to a 10 in my short 34wks. Take a guess what that did to my hips and thighs, and let’s not even mention the boobs or ab area. That is what led me to look up methods to be rid of that body that became foreign to me. I soon found plastic surgery…the quick fix….not quite ready to resign myself to having surgery at 23, let alone pay for it, I kept looking. Wraps, lasers and other expensive salon treatments were next, but here again for how expensive it is you are still not guaranteed results, so no thanks. Both of these methods also involve the possibility of heavy scaring, not something that really appealed considering I was trying to get rid of “scars”.
Working within my means I got a personal trainer and hit the fitness and nutrition method, drank lots of water, ate balanced meals, no junk food etc. While I admit it helped me get back to a size 2(by 12m post delivery) it still didn’t fix my problem areas. Fitness was great and all but I wanted my skin back, not just my overall body size.
An impending beach vacation 4m post delivery meant I desperately wanted to don my bikinis. Fat chance at being confident enough for that! Though they covered all the necessary parts, I still packed numerous cover-ups. Granted, I had now lost all the weight and I probably wasn’t as saggy as I thought, my confidence was GONE. When we returned from vacation I was so down that I revisited the methods I had researched. That’s when I stumbled upon Bentonite Clay, the main ingredient in many wraps and salon treatments, the benefits of this natural supplement are vast. But, it would be months before I would try it. In the interim I tried mederma, scar lotions, skin tightening elixirs, anti-agers and anti-cellulite…all to no avail. Time to give the clay a shot.
Now, there are many methods to mix and apply. This depends on your preferences, skin type and goals. I, personally, have sensitive skin and simply used water but I did like coconut oil, and yogurt. The first attempt was MESSY, I painted it on like a paste (thicker for a more intense mask), then sealed it all up with plastic wrap and went overtop with ace wraps for compression; I bought about 10 ace wraps and plastic wrap. I then laid still for about an hour. I am not particularly fond of this method, mainly because I have two toddlers and this is a pain in the ass. However it worked! I instantly saw an improvement in the elasticity of my skin. Skeptical, I waited until the next day to really assess anything. The next day I was still pleased and decided to try it again, but modify it. As I played not only with ingredients but also duration and ways to wrap, I continued to be impressed with my results. After 3 hour-long wraps, the handful of marks on my belly were gone. Yes, gone! Admittedly, my stomach marks were not so much of my issue as my inner hips/thighs and boobs.
To be honest, I fell off the wagon for about a month as the time just wasn’t there. So, if I wanted to keep doing masks it was time for a revamp. I started back up and tried simply mixing with water and applying to desired areas, no wrapping, no laying still, just a bit of Nakie time πŸ˜‰ and results were still just as impressive! I ditched all the extras and continued masks like this once every 2 weeks. Let’s just say EPIC!! Fully satisfied with my “new” boobies I wondered what else the mask would work for. I started using it as a facial, and I couldn’t have been happier. My acne (that I’ve battled since high school; even prescriptions and diet didn’t touch) is GONE. It has evened out my skin and again improved elasticity. I will note that I do very light and thin masks for my face since I do them way more often than body masks.
I am now about a month into this routine (body masks every week and face every 3 days) and I LOVE it. I get beauty/mommy time to relax and enjoy, which was a huge boost to my confidence, (being able to spend time on me) doing something I feel improves me. Even if I am the only one to see the difference I am thrilled that something so simple has allowed me to regain what I feel is ME.
So here are the basics-
Needs:
Ice – To close up pores post mask…yup all “masked” areas. And to be fair cold water will do. I just find it easier to rub an ice cube over areas.
Bentonite clay – There are many different names for it and even different types. Try em see what you like based on your skin. And don’t mix in it or with metal. It reduces it’s potency, I made this mistake early on:/
Cocoa butter – Pure, organic with no additives. I found it on amazon.
Nutrition & Exercise – Pretty self explanatory but also drinking lots of water.
Now, lemme take a selfie…..
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pictures are 1, 2 and 3 weeks post partum
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first two pictures are after 1 mask- last picture though not great quality is pre any mask
again keep in mind my belly was not my problem area however there is really no good way to photograph my inner thighs ;0

Banana bread trials

I’m happy to say we had a rather productive past week! Aside from melting my seeds in the oven :0
-more on that later
But I did want to share the new banana-coconut bread recipes!
We tried 3 recipes and then made some edits to each. Here’s how they turned out…..

Recipe one:coconut banana bread for this one we substituted regular flour with coconut flour….and it ended up quite a bit heavier/denser than the pictured fluffy bread. But, the boys love it and with a little butter melted on a slice it has the perfect flavor, and it made for the perfect Saturday morning snack!20140329-100850.jpg

Recipe two:chocolate chip banana bread again we substituted flour with coconut flour. We also used homemade butter (yes, we make our own) and 2 tsp of cinnamon. Again, this is a heavier/denser bread but nice flavor and a filling snack!
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Recipe three:banana bread this time we used coconut oil rather than vegetable oil, and didn’t add nuts. Before baking it was rather runny, but turned out quite moist! Scott really seems to like it and even the next day it was still very good! More of an adult snack as it falls apart instantly:)20140329-100624.jpg


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Recipe 4: this one is less of a recipe and more of an easily adapted idea, and truthfully was more about not wasting the leftovers and using up some odds and ends:0 BUT it turned out really good! It's the perfect chewy bar type snack for the boys! I can't give you exact measurements (much to Scotts dismay I never measure when I cook) BUT like I said easily adapted
-whole milk
-raw steel cut oats
-wheat germ and flax
-cinnamon
-honey
-sugar
-4 mashed ripe bananas

Enjoy!;