A “Real Food” Thanksgiving Challenge

Crunchy Nana's "Real Food" Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 with my three daughters (and one of my four grandchildren)

When I was a young mom, I had visions of “Little House on the Prairie” when it came to raising our family and keeping our home. I cloth diapered all our babies (at a time when disposables were the new and popular thing to do), breastfed those babies, sewed almost all of our clothing, knit sweaters, tended a garden, canned the harvest—well, you get the idea. The years passed quickly and I found myself juggling the demands of three busy little girls and their activities, church duties, PTA meetings, a sewing and alteration business, raising pug puppies, and running an in-home day care for anywhere from 1-5 preschoolers. I started falling into the habit of using a fair amount of processed foods just to speed things along in the kitchen. It didn’t seem like a big deal; I still made most of our meals at home.

I Saw the “Real Food” Light

Fast forward to 2011. All of our children were grown, but I was still in the habit of using convenience foods in my kitchen. One of my daughters found a blog that she thought I would enjoy, so I started following 100 Days of Real Food.

I couldn’t read about this “real food” thing fast enough! I quickly began to clean out the processed foods from my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. The more I read, the more I wanted to make a lot of changes to the way we were eating, and it felt almost overwhelming.

I had so many things to learn about which products to buy, which cooking techniques are best, and which new kitchen tools would be helpful. In my typical way, I wanted all those things to be accomplished yesterday! (I tend to be a little OCD sometimes – or CDO if you prefer the letters in alphabetical order!)

Encouragement for Your Healthy Eating Changes

Since I began cutting processed foods two years ago, I’ve lost 40 pounds. This happened gradually with no change to my regular exercise routine.

Crunchy Nana lost 40 pounds by cutting out processed foods!

Over the last several years, I’ve done some things “wrong”, but many more things right. My biggest mistake was feeling guilty when I didn’t do everything perfectly- which defeats the whole purpose of adopting a healthy lifestyle. It’s okay to strive for perfection, but realize that you will have fallbacks and triumphs. Most importantly, enjoy your journey and keep it going!

If you’ve recently begun your own journey to eat in a more healthy way and use safer products in your home, take a little something from me: It’s ok to take it one step at a time! Any change you’re making for the better is a good one!

Following the 80/20 rule is a good way for me to stay in balance. I try to “eat real” 80% of the time, and other times, when I eat at restaurants or  with friends, I don’t worry or feel guilty. The important thing is that you are making changes that will benefit you and your family for years to come.

Tools I Recommend

After I cleared my kitchen of processed foods, I slowly began to collect tools that would make cooking from scratch easier and more efficient. I now regularly use my Kitchenaid Mixer for making homemade bread, pasta, or pizza dough. I also have a Crock Pot and pressure cooker to save time on days when I’m going to be gone most of the day.

To save money, I invested in a FoodSaver. Most of the time I am cooking only for my husband and myself, but I still like to purchase food in bulk and make food in large batches. When I come home from my farm co-op or Costco, I spend a little time packing up smaller amounts of food for storage in the freezer or pantry. I am able to get the food at a great price and reduce waste—win/win!

Last week I added one another fun item to my “stash”, a Nutrimill Grain Mill. It makes grinding my own flour a breeze and I feel good about using organic wheat berries that I buy in bulk. Now I’m looking forward to playing around with some other types of whole grains!

Crunchy Nana’s Thanksgiving Challenge

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, why not try to incorporate some “real food” into your traditional meal?  I know this is a busy time of year, but these changes don’t have to be big or time consuming.

Try buying an organic turkey, making a simple dish of fresh fruit, or incorporating organic canned pumpkin (from a BPA-free can) into your pumpkin pie. You could also make this homemade cream of mushroom soup recipe for those green bean casserole that show up on so many tables this time of year. (We had it last year, and it is delicious!)

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How do you keep it real and what are some of your favorite resources? Crunchy Nana would love to chat with you in the comments section below!

How to Replace Elastic in Cloth Diapers

An easy tutorial for replacing the elastic in cloth diapers.

If you have an otherwise good diaper but the elastic is shot, step off the ledge! You have two options:

  1. Check the manufacturer’s warranty. You might be able to have it replaced or repaired at no cost.
  2. You* can replace the elastic yourself.

The first option is obviously ideal, because it’s the least work – a welcome solution for a busy mom! But if the diaper has no warranty or is outside of the warranty period, replacing the elastic is not that difficult of a project.

* Please note that my definition of the term “you” excludes me. Seriously, I can’t even sew a button. Thankfully, my mom (aka Crunchy Nana) is a talented seamstress and offered to show us an easy way to replace elastic in cloth diapers!

What You Need

Step 1: Measure the Replacement Elastic

If only one side of the diaper is shot, you can take a measurement of the unstretched leg on the opposite side.

If you need to replace the elastic on both legs, it’s fine to take any other cloth diaper and measure its elastic. You don’t even have to use the same brand or type of diaper to measure from; simply choose a diaper that fits your baby’s legs the most comfortably (that is, it doesn’t leak at the legs or leave red marks).

measure-the-good-elastic

Most of the diapers in my stash have leg elastic in the 5.5 to 7-inch range.

Step 2: Open the Casing to Remove the Old Elastic

The method demonstrated here is an exterior replacement method, so first you have to find a place to get into the elastic casing from the seam at the leg. A note of caution: be very careful with the seam ripper – you don’t want to poke a hole in the PUL by accident!

First, use the seam ripper to carefully unstitch the seam right next to where the elastic is sewn in (A). Open a space of about an inch so you can grab the old elastic and maneuver your fingers a bit (B). Next, you’ll need to take out the seam where the elastic is anchored so that you can remove the old elastic. Generally, this will only require ripping a few stitches (C).

removing-the-old-elastic

Now repeat A, B, and C on other end, and pull out the old elastic.

Step 3: Insert the New Elastic

Before inserting the new elastic, fasten safety pins at both ends. This will give you something to hang on to while you wiggle it through the casing.

new-elastic-ready-to-go-in

Insert the new elastic, pushing it through inchworm-style until your safety pins can hang out at each opening.

new-elastic-in-place

Step 4: Sew Down the New Elastic

Now that you have the new elastic threaded through the casing, it’s time to sew it in place. Now, Crunchy Nana (whose sock drawer is immaculate, and organized by color) wishes me to remind you to thread the machine so that the top color matches the diaper and the bobbin color matches the diaper’s lining.

Remove the safety pin from the end that you want to sew in first. To anchor the elastic in place while you stitch it, pull it about 1/4 inch past the original seam that you ripped out and will be sewing over. Then put a straight pin through the new elastic and the lining – just be sure not to pin the PUL!

anchor-the-elastic-before-sewing

Next, Crunchy Nana used a zipper foot to avoid going over that pin. (Tangent here. Zipper Foot would make a pretty awesome band name; am I right?!) Start a little ways back so that you can go over the existing stitches; then make a 90⁰ turn to sew the new elastic in place.

sewing-the-new-elastic

Once you have the first side finished, pull and stretch to make sure it’s stitched tight before moving on to the other end. Then simply repeat this process on the other end! Note that it may feel a little more difficult to keep everything in place on the other end, because now there is a bit of tension.

Step 5: Close ‘er Up

At this point, the new elastic is sewn in place on both ends, but you still have two open gaps where you originally ripped the seams in step 2.

close-up-the-holes

Crunchy Nana informed me that she was just going to quickly whip stitch these using a double thread.

(Once again, my mind wandered. This vocabulary is all so new to me, but whip stitching sounds like a great punishment. In a few more years, I’ll probably be throwing around this term as a vague threat when my children are being overly rambunctious. “Stop that right now, or Mama’s gonna have to whip-stitch you!”)

whip-stitching

Start about a 1/4 inch behind the opening so you catch in the good stitches and hide the knot. Pull it taut and anchor it between your thumb and forefinger while you whip stitch it closed.

Have Any Questions?

Well, don’t ask me! Remember, I can’t sew a button and that’s not an exaggeration. But Crunchy Nana will be monitoring the comments and is happy to chat with you about this project. Leave a comment below if you have any questions about how to replace elastic in cloth diapers.

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Crunchy Nana’s Homemade Granola

[A note from Courtney: Today’s blog post is brought to you by my mom, aka “Crunchy Nana“. She can cook, bake, make her own soap, mill her own flour, spin her own yarn, sew, knit, smock, appliqué, garden, raise chickens, deliver pug puppies, and much, much more. Leave a comment if there are any topics on which you’d especially like to hear more from Crunchy Nana!]

homemade granola

Homemade granola is delicious, healthy, easy to make, and much less expensive than buying pre-made granola. We ate the last of our granola yesterday morning, so of course today I’m in the kitchen whipping up another batch. My husband, John, LOVES this stuff and eats it almost every morning (and also snacks on it–I’m trying to wean him off of M&M’s!!).

My recipe is inspired by and adapted from one I found in my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook, which is fabulous. The original recipe can be found on the King Arthur Flour website. The most notable changes are that I leave out the dry milk and use 3/4 cup of melted organic coconut oil as a healthier alternative to vegetable oil.

Crunchy Nana’s Favorite Ingredients (Organic If Possible!)

  • 7 cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup flax seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp salt – I use Redmond Real Salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • Dried fruit

Homemade Granola Ingredients

(I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t have a drinking problem. The Smirnoff bottle contains my homemade vanilla extract.)

The great thing about granola is that you can really play around with the recipe and put in any nuts your family likes. Granola is also a wonderful activity for little ones to “help” with, since there is so much dumping and stirring of dry ingredients.

Start by dumping all of the dry ingredients except the fruit into a nice, big baking pan.

Next, start preparing the “sauce” by melting 3/4 cup of coconut oil. (If your house is warmer than 76 degrees, then your coconut oil is probably liquid already, so you can skip this step.) Whisk together the melted coconut oil with 1 cup of pure maple syrup and a tablespoon of vanilla. Whisk it up until everything is nice and smooth.

Now just pour the sauce all over your nut and grain mixture, making sure not to waste one yummy drop!

Pour the Sauce

Stir, stir, stir until everything is incorporated and you’re ready to pop it into the oven.

Bake it for two hours at 250 degrees, stirring well after one hour. The long, slow baking time makes it really nice and crunchy, which of course, Crunchy Nana likes. Do something fun while your kitchen fills up with the most delicious aroma. (I spent my two hours refinishing my dining room chairs with chalk paint!)

After the granola is done baking and has cooled a bit, add dried fruit if desired. Here I added chopped dried cherries, craisins, apricots, and mangoes. This is really more dried fruit than I would like to use, especially since it has added sugar. However, my husband likes it this way and since I took away his M&M’s…well, you get the picture.

Add Fruit

And…I’m done!  Delicious, homemade granola for the next few weeks!  And besides that, doesn’t it look pretty?

 

[Another note from Courtney: Here’s the TL-DR version – throw everything together and bake it for 2 hours at 250. It’s hard to mess this one up. Enjoy!!]

Meet Crunchy Nana!

My mom is one of the most loving, unselfish, and gifted people I know. She can cook, bake, sew, knit, smock, quilt, garden, and so much more. She’s much more talented than me in many ways, so I begged her to help me bring you some interesting and fun tutorials on Diaper Wrecker. Luckily, she agreed!

In the late 70s and early 80s, she was a cloth diapering, breastfeeding mama back when those things were going out of style. I remember tagging along to her La Leche League meetings when my sister was a baby. I like to sing a little tune that she “was crunchy… when crunchy wasn’t cool.” (In case you’re not familiar with classic country music, you might need to listen to a little Barbara Mandrell for that line to make sense.) Her four grandchildren call her Nana, and recently she joked that she could go by “Crunchy Nana” in the cloth diaper world. The nickname has stuck.

Soon you’ll be hearing more from Crunchy Nana on a variety of topics. I think you’ll like her as much as I do!

Then & Now collage

Me and my wonderful mom, then and now!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!