Google+ The Duda Homestead: October 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

DIY Babywearing Halloween Costume

We had a costume party to go to this past weekend so I threw together a costume for our little guy with some materials I had on hand. Granted, this could have been better, but it worked and I didn't have to buy anything. If I did it again, I would have done two layers of the "egg" and stuffed it. And I also would have had a more contrasting outfit for him, but again, last minute and this was still adorable. It was super easy and I've included the pattern for the tail and hat attachment. This could also be used for a baby dinosaur (my original idea but it was more involved and I ran out of time).

For the egg, I used felt because it is more stiff, but I think fleece would work well, especially if you plan on doubling it up and stuffing it (the stretch would make that even easier on you.

I traced the Baby Bjorn onto paper first for some reason. You could definitely just trace it (or whatever carrier you are using) right onto the fabric. (I realize these aren't the best carriers because of hip issues, but he'd push his way right out of the Moby now and I couldn't find our Mei Tai carrier. One day won't hurt and I hold his legs up most of the time anyways). 

So first, trace your carrier (twice if you want to stitch them together and stuff it). Make sure to leave some extra fabric for tabs to help attach it. For example, I left extra at the bottom and cut a slit to put the bottom of the carrier through. I also left two tabs to cut holes in to slip the top straps through. This will depend on your carrier. Obviously, make sure you don't fold or attach fabric anywhere that would compromise the strength/safety of your carrier! Also cut some zig zags at the top and arm/legs to get that newly hatched look.

Next, for the tail, I had yellow felt that I turned into a tail. Use the Tail Pattern to quickly cut out, trace on your fabric, and cut again. Once you have this cut out, fold and stitch where it overlaps. Then, cut at the slits shown. Cut out a 4" circle of the same fabric (or the egg color would work as well). Stitch the cone to the flat circle. Before you get to the very end, stuff it well with batting or cotton balls, or extra fabric, really whatever you have on hand that is fluffy. Then, finish up the stitching.

Once you have your cone, to get the cute little duck tail look, stitch up, over about an inch, and back down. Then tie a knot and pull until it is perked up to your liking, then double the knot (I used coordinating embroidery floss but thread should work just fine). 

Now to poke it out of your egg! Find the center of your egg, about where you think a tail would be. Cut a 3" X. Then, cut some zig zags for that broken eggshell look. Poke your tail through the back and stitch it on.

Now for the hat. We had a little duck hat on hand to attach a little "broken eggshell" to. You can use this pattern for any baby hat, though you may want to shrink it a bit for a newborn, I think the oversized shell would be cute. Cut out the pattern, trace, and cut out your fabric. Stitch it at the overlap and cut your zig zag again. I only did about 4 big stitches to stitch it to the hat because I wanted to be able to easily take it off later.

Then it's time to put it all together! Again, it would be better if we had some orange pants and a more yellow shirt, but it worked regardless :)

With some stuffing and a better outfit underneath, it'd be super cute! But this was a good, no-cost & quick alternative :)

Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quinoa & Veggie Stuffed Peppers

I've been trying to cook at least 2 meatless dinners each week. It's easier on the budget and our health. Quinoa is packed with protein and iron (ahem...pregnant ladies!) and is super versatile, not to mention much cheaper than any meat worth buying. In one serving, you get 6g of protein, 20% of your DV of Iron, 3g of fiber, and only 2.5g of fat.

I've become a big fan of stuffed peppers, but was not a fan of how long they can take to cook and haven't had much success with crock pot stuffed peppers because I like mine to still have some crunch. I had fresh zucchini from my mom's garden to use up and some organic peppers in the fridge so I threw this together and the hubby and I loved it. Feel free to replace some of the cheese with goat cheese (I would have if I had it!). It is a filling dinner that doesn't leave you bogged down when you're finished.

Begin by cooking your Quinoa. I like to use half vegetable broth and half water for some added flavor. (Chicken broth works well too if you aren't worried about keeping this totally meatless). 

While the Quinoa cooks (about 10 minutes), cut your peppers in half, top to bottom to make little pepper boats. These are easier to eat, in my opinion, than the traditional stuffed peppers. Put them face down on a pan (I know...shame on me for using tin foil...but I need a new pan for the toaster oven). Roast them to your liking. I did about 15 minutes in the toaster oven at 400 to keep them a bit crunchy (keep in mind they will cook a bit longer later on).

While those cook, chop up your zucchini and mix with a can of diced tomato (of course you can do fresh if you have it!), Italian seasoning, celery salt (or garlic), and ground flax. *Note: If you prefer your zucchini fully cooked, I recommend sautéing it here. Feel free to mix in the tomatoes and spices after they cook a bit and let simmer for about 10 minutes. I like crunch so I did not cook them first).

Next, mix in your cheese and cooked quinoa:

Then, turn your peppers over and stuff 'em! Top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and some parsley. Cook for 15-20 minutes at 375 (this is in a toaster oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes in a regular oven).


Ingredients (Serves 4)
  • 4 Organic Green Peppers
  • 1/2C Quinoa
  • 1/2C Vegetable Broth
  • 1 large or 2 medium Zucchini
  • 1 Can Organic Tomatoes
  • 1T Italian Seasoning Blend
  • 1/2C Shredded Cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
  • 1t Celery Salt (or garlic)
  • 1T Ground Flax (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2C Shredded Cheese (for topping)
  • Approx 1T Parsley Flakes to make it pretty
  1. Cook Quinoa in broth and water
  2. Cut peppers in half, top to bottom, and remove pith and seeds
  3. Roast face down for approximately 15 minutes 
  4. Chop zucchini into thin quarter-round slices
  5. Mix with tomato, Italian Seasoning, Celery Salt, Flax, and Shredded Cheese
  6. Stir in Quinoa
  7. Remove peppers and turn over
  8. Stuff the peppers, top with cheese and parsley
  9. Cook for 15-20 minutes at 375 (toaster oven) or 20-30 minutes in a regular oven. 

Why celery salt? As I will post soon, my husband and I are both allergic to Allium, which is the entire onion and garlic family. We won't stop breathing, but it gives us a headache (just to be by it), itchy lips and throat, and upset stomach. Celery has made a great replacement!

Why the toaster oven? I wrote this recipe when it was still hot out and we don't have A/C so I use the oven as little as possible in the summer. The toaster oven does a lot more than toast bread and cook pizza! I plan to post an entire series by/during next summer so you can save on your gas and electric bill in the summer.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Where We Call Home - Chicago & Batavia w/Kendra Thornton

I was contacted by Kendra Thornton, of Thornton Public Relations to collaborate on a Q&A post about why we love our home cities. My husband and I love our home and are so excited to raise our son here. (Ah, "our son," still can't get over saying that!). Kendra was able to travel a great deal during her position as Orbitz Director of Communications, and happily calls Chicago home for herself, husband, and their three children. My husband and I live in Batavia with our little man, about an hour west of Chicago, and love the calm lifestyle we live here on The Homestead. Read our conversation below to find out what Kendra & I love most about our home towns! (Note: A=April, that's me! K=Kendra)
Photo by April Duda - 2011 in Batavia, IL
 Q: How long have you lived in your current city?

K: I have lived in my current city, Chicago, and its greater suburban regions for my entire life. I grew up here, attended college at Northwestern, and never left after college! If the term “lifer” has ever applied, it is with me and my beloved Midwestern city—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have been to numerous countries throughout the world thanks to my previous job, and while I certainly enjoy it, I always love coming home to Chicago.

A: I feel the same way! We enjoy trips now and then, but are always happy to come home. My husband and I have lived in Batavia for 4 years now. In 2009, we were searching for our own apartment that was cheap, but in a nice area. Luckily, we stumbled across an ad on Craigslist for a small studio apartment in the second floor of a house that had been broken up into 4 units. This house was here in Batavia, right by the river and bike path. Perfect! We lived in that tiny apartment for 2 years and in that time got hitched, obtained our teaching certificates and landed our first teaching jobs. During our job searches, we decided that Batavia was where we wanted to stay and call home, so we narrowed our search. We luckily found positions close to home (I in Batavia, and my husband nearby in West Chicago).  With our new income and saved dough from enduring 220 sq ft for 2 years, we began searching for a home. We looked at one house that went on the market the day we met with our realtor and mortgage broker for pre-approval. We got it, looked at the house that we now lovingly call “The Homestead” and put in an offer that night and haven’t looked back! (Check out photos from our first winter here!)

Q: What are your favorite attractions in your home city?
K: Living in a big city, there is never a dull moment. There really is excitement around every corner, but I will list off a few of my favorite family attractions because I think there is a common misconception that cities are not kid friendly. The Lincoln Park Zoo is an old Chicago treasure that has been around for years. My kids love it here, and it is very well kept making it a delight to attend.

A:  That's great! We enjoy occasional trips into the zoo and agree that Lincoln Park Zoo is a great one! In Batavia, we regularly walk or bike the path along the river in the summers and since having our son, enjoy parking downtown and walking the Riverwalk or attending one of the many festivals hosted there, such as Art in your Eye, BatFest, Green Walk, and our own little “Taste of Batavia” known as our Block Party. (Check out Batavia's beautiful dedication to 9/11 here)We also love our library and all of the kids’ programs they offer. We’re also looking forward to spending time swimming with our little man at the Quarry in summer to come. And last, but not least, as an artist myself I LOVE that we live in such an artful community. The entire tri-city area has embraced the arts and it can be found everywhere! Batavia’s Water Street Studios has offered so much to our community since they set up shop.
Here's us on the Batavia Riverwalk in 2009 after our Engagement!
 Q: What is your favorite thing about your home city?
K: My favorite thing about Chicago is the homely feel this city has. It may seem hard to imagine that a city of millions could feel like this, but our common love of Chicago makes it this way.

A: Sound like we have that in common! We love the ambiance of the town. It has a population nearing 30k but still has that small town feel. I am from a small town (around 3k when I was growing up) and my husband went to college in Idaho and, while he is from the suburbs, knew he wanted to be away from the congestion and traffic. One thing I did not love about my small town is that there wasn’t usually much to do, and shopping wasn’t very convenient. Batavia balances everything we’d hoped we’d find. Randall Rd. offers just about every store you’d ever want to visit and we enjoy our almost weekly trips to our local Goodwill (whether to purge or buy!).
Q: Where is your favorite place to eat?

K: I have tons of different dining options that I love, but one of my recent favorites to bring my kids to is Abigail’s American Bistro. It is affordable, and the menu is absolutely delicious. With something for everyone from kids to adults, this fine dining experience (4.5 star rating) really has it all. I was able to find this restaurant by looking on the site Gogobot, a social site with guides for areas all over Chicago (and every other city in the world) as well as hotels, their primary feature.

A: I'll have to check out that site! We have tried many places in town, and while we are excited to try some of our most recent additions, we absolutely love Pal Joey’s. It is near our lil’ old apartment and we used to go there when it was a different name/owners. We enjoyed it just for the location and their outdoor patio on the river. We go there more often now that Pal Joey’s has moved in. I have yet to taste a better pizza and there is not much more relaxing than sitting on that back patio on a nice day with a slice of pizza and glass of Blue Moon. I also love Limestone Coffee & Tea and was very excited when they reopened!

Q: Would you rather live somewhere else? If yes, why? If no, why not?

K: There is nowhere I would rather be than in Chicago, Illinois. I have called it my home for my entire life, and being anywhere else just wouldn’t feel right at this point! How about you?

A: Before we bought our home, I may have said yes (if I didn’t want to stay close to family). I looove mountains and the northwoods of Wisconsin. I always feel at home there, which makes sense because half of my family lives there. But I never want to leave our home and we are happy that it is here in Batavia where we still get a good dose of nature :)
 What do you love about your home town? I'd love to hear it!
PS - You can follow Kendra on Twitter, here!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

4th Trimester Reflections

Our little man is 10 days away from turning 5 months old. 5 months...that's almost 6...which is half of a year. Holy cow. Time really does fly, and I cherish my memories of his newborn days. I won't say I miss them, because I choose to live in the present. I like it here. I look at photos and videos and get teary and say "awwww" a lot, but I am so proud of the little man he is already becoming. I am extremely grateful that I am able to stay home with my little man and not miss a thing. I have always been the super sappy sentimental type and don't think I would handle being away from him very well (I am not saying anything negative here about moms who go back to work...hell, I wouldn't have a job without you. You are tough and doing what you need to do for your family, go you!). But enough about being sappy, let's move on to some reminiscing...

I'd read a bit about the "4th trimester" and thought it was interesting that it was called that. I had read it was because they do so much growing & developing in those first 3 months after birth. I'd also read the theory that since we evolved and began walking upright, it decreased pelvic/birth canal size so babies had to be born "before they were ready." Now, they are saying metabolism may have something to do with it. But anywho...needless to say babies are helpless little things when they are born. Adorable, sweet, dependent, tiny (usually) little things who peck around like little birds looking for momma's milk. Sigh that was my favorite. I didn't have much experience with newborns before having our little one. In fact, in the hospital when I was working on establishing nursing, I made a nurse help me rotate him to the other side because I thought I was going to break him (and to my credit had zero core strength and was at an awkward angle). My husband was a champ those first couple of days. I'm sure he was nervous but he hid it well, changing his first diaper and getting him in his first onesie. I was impressed because I was feeling about as physically helpless as our newborn (damn Pitocin...I blame you). E looked ridiculously tiny in his car seat and I just couldn't wait to get him safely into our home.

The next day after bringing him home, we had to take him to see his pediatrician (I delivered an hour away so we had the hospital pediatrician check him out, but then needed to see ours). So back into the carseat he went and on to that germ infested doctor's office (eep!). It was in those fluorescent lights in the office that we realized he was quite yellow. Then we discussed his potty patterns and while he did poop (in utero, and shortly after birth), he hadn't pooped in a couple of days nor had he peed much, if at all. So within about a 10 minute window, we were told that he was starving (I'm exaggerating of course) and jaundice and not knowing much about it at the time, I broke down in tears and just wanted our baby to be ok. Our sweet nurse practitioner reassured me that he'd be fine, they just want to see him pooping because that helps get the excess bilirubin out of his system. So then came the formula to supplement until my milk came in. I hate this part. Nothing against moms who choose or have to use just isn't what I wanted for my baby. I will say, after seeing his sense of satisfaction after that first bottle (which he took like a pro) I felt fine about it. It wasn't until later on that I wish one of us would have slowed down to think rationally and at least choose an organic formula. But what's done is done and he's healthy and nurses very well and hasn't had formula since. So like I said earlier, no living in the past.

After being in our local hospital under the lights for less than 24 hours, frequently nursing, then taking a bottle after, he was given the ok to go home since his levels were back to normal. Finally we could go home and stay home with our little man. My husband teaches and took two weeks off (it's only his second year so he didn't want to take too much time, but we timed it right because he only had to go back for a week after his leave was up and then it was summer!). I loved having him home with us.

So as I mentioned earlier, newborns are helpless little things, and that's no big news. They're kind of known for it. So now it was time to settle into our new lives as parents and work on getting into some kind of routine. He slept a lot, usually on me or his daddy, nursed well, and smiled in his sleep often. So stinkin' cute. He is still an extremely happy and smiley baby. He also went through a lot of diapers...We had some Naty disposable diapers that we were using up and a few days in, when I was more comfortable getting up and walking around, I decided to start using our cloth newborn stash. We had bought a stash of Kissaluvs fitteds and various covers from a friend. And wouldn't you know it, in his first cloth diaper he finally took his first poo since the hospital. Yay!

I swear it was the day he turned 3 months old that I had a rough day accepting that he was no longer a newborn. Suddenly he wanted to stand or sit up all the time and be a big boy. He wasn't content laying down in momma's lap anymore. But then he would get hungry and sleepy and need me to soothe him. Then I remembered, "Oh yeah, he still needs me. And he will for quite awhile." Not that I didn't have a ton of fun with him in those first few months, but the bigger he got, the more smiley, responsive and fun he became. I know my husband had a hard time, as many do. He didn't feel that he could do much to help him, which maybe directly he can't because all baby really wants is mom & milk. But he made sure I had food and water, which I needed more of than I ever thought I would. He was awesome and for any dads feeling the same way, he is having a blast with him these days :)

In those first few months, they can't reach out (at least not in a controlled way) to grab their toys or you (omg...when they reach out and touch your face the first time...oh man. Heart melting). They just kind of hang out. Then all of a sudden I find myself thinking of what I can do to entertain him. He holds himself up playing with his Zany Zoo (with our help of course) and loves books (he started staring at them at just a few days old...especially Look, Look!). And man is he ticklish! He also travels very well and is a breeze to take anywhere, especially if I wear him in my Moby wrap. He just hangs out, looks around, and naps when he gets sleepy.

So if you have a newborn yourself, maybe you are struggling feeling like it will never end. It will, hang in there! And for those of you who enjoyed it as much as I did and are missing it, I hear ya, but aren't they so much fun now? I've said it before, live in the present, take lots of pictures, and cherish these moments and look back with a smile :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Apple & Pumpkin Spice Chip Cookes

Last fall, I started experimenting with my favorite holiday cookie recipe. By adding extra cinnamon and replacing the cranberries in the original recipe with chopped apple, I gave them more of a fall taste (see them here). This year, I got a little more courageous and switched up the recipe even more to make these delicious cookies that have been described as Autumn exploding in your mouth.

What really makes these cookies are the pumpkin pie spice chips that I discovered over at The Cupcake Project! I did not shape mine into cute chips like she did, but just rolled them flat onto parchment paper and cut them into little squares after they cooled. I also used maple syrup in place of the corn syrup and it worked out great! I made these the night before (you can make them days before, they will keep for quite awhile) For the chips you will need:
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 3T Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2T Butter (at room temp)
  • 2T Light Corn Syrup (I used Maple Syrup)
  • 1/4t Vanilla Extract
Mix all ingredients and press out flat on parchment paper and bake your blob at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely and then use a butcher knife or pizza cutter to cut out your squares. Save the little crumbs...they are awesome in coffee or to top these cookies or muffins!

Now for the cookies! (Ingredients/Instructions at the bottom of this post)
Start by mixing your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) in a large mixing bowl (I like to throw them all in the sifter (except oats) and then whisk in the oats. In a separate bowl (on your mixer if you have one) beat the butter & sugars until well blended. Then, beat in eggs one at a time and add the syrup and vanilla. Then slowly mix in the dry ingredients as shown below.

I mixed in a 15oz can of pumpkin (although fresh is best!) at this point instead of with the wet ingredients because...well because I forgot I was adding pumpkin until this point. Once the pumpkin is blended well, add a bit more flour a little at a time (up to a 1/2 cup) to thicken the batter. Stir in the white chocolate chips and diced apple (with the mixer is fine). Then carefully stir in the pumpkin pie spice chips by hand.

Now you are ready to drop your batter onto a cookie sheet! You can roll these into balls to get a "neater" looking cookie, but with a baby I found keeping my hands free was much better so I used two spoons to drop them onto the cookie sheet and it worked very well. Keep them spaced about 2" apart to allow for spreading. Top with cinnamon or more pumpkin pie spice!

Bake for 10-13 minutes at 350 degrees (until the edges start looking golden brown. Don't let them get too dark, the batter is already a golden brown because of the pumpkin). Note that the chips will melt onto the pan if they are touching it. They didn't burn and came off easily, but you may want to bake them on parchment paper if you tend to have sticking issues with your cookie sheets.

Apple & Pumpkin Spice Chip Fall Cookies

  • 2-2.5C. Flour
  • 1tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2tsp Salt
  • 1C. Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2tsp Vanilla
  • 1C. White Chocolate Chips
  • 1-2 Cups Pumpkin Pie Spice Chips (your preference)
  • 1C. Butter (Softened)
  • 15oz Can of Pumpkin
  • 3C. Oats (I've always used quick oats)
  • 1/2tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2C. Granulated Sugar
  • 1T Pure Maple Syrup (or honey)
  • 1 medium-large apple, peeled and diced. I used a large Honeycrisp, and had extra.
  • Cinnamon or Pumpkin Pie Spice (for topping)
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Sift 2 Cups of flour, baking soda, salt, & cinnamon into a medium bowl
  3. Stir in oats and set aside
  4. Beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy
  5. Beat in eggs one at a time
  6. Add maple syrup (or honey) and vanilla
  7. Add flour mixture until well combined 
  8. Blend in pumpkin 
  9. Mix in up to a half cup of flour a little at a time as needed until batter is thickened
  10. Stir in apple and white chocolate
  11. Carefully stir in pumpkin pie spice chips by hand
  12. Drop onto a cookie sheet about 2" apart
  13. Sprinkle tops with pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  14. Bake 10-13 minutes
  15. Enjoy!
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