Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recipe: Sun Brewed Sweet Tea

In the Beaber family, when summer arrives, so does sweet tea. 

I grew up sipping chilly glasses of sweet tea on hot Sunday afternoons at my Grandma's house over her delicious lunches.  Fried chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob, homemade dinner rolls, peach pie, and sweet tea.  Mmmm, mmmm, mmm. 
Does it get any more perfect than that?

Although I cannot make my Grandma's fried chicken or her dinner rolls, I can make sun tea. 
However, since Ggrandma was an Alabama girl, we've had to cut back on the sweet a little bit.
I don't know how the southerners do it, must be why they are all so kind and gentle, they are filled to the brim with sugar!  Real southern sweet tea is so thick with sugar you can practically stand a spoon up in a glass of it!
Here is how we make ours, an adaptation of grandma's that still tastes good, and reminds me of those sweet summer memories.

Get yourself a gallon sized glass jar.  This one was an old pickle jar from a restaurant. (don't worry, it doesn't taste like pickles anymore)
You also need to find yourself a good black tea.  I prefer Tetley or Tazo.  I like it nice and dark. I'm not a huge fan of Lipton's (gasp!).
Put 5 tea bags in your jar and fill it up with water.  I cheat a little and get a head start by using warm water.  On a really hot day this isn't necessary. 
After filling it up, put the lid on tight and take your jar outside.  You are going to want to place the jar in the sunniest spot on your deck.  The best tea sits outside steeping all day long in the hot, hot sun (no, I have no idea if this is healthy or safe, I don't really care, I can't think how it could be a problem though).  At the end of the day bring your jar back inside.  It will now be full of a dark, aromatic brew.  Now the next step is purely up to each individuals taste-buds.  I add a little less than a 1/2 a cup of sugar to this entire jar.  This makes the tea sweet, but not too sweet.  A real southern girl would probably put in a cup and a half.  I'm not sure I could choke that stuff down, but to each his own.  Always mix the sugar in while the tea is still warm. 
Have you ever tried to mix sugar into cold tea?  It doesn't work very well.
Now, you can pour yourself a drink over a full glass of ice or put it in the fridge and let it chill until tomorrow. 
Most importantly, make sure you pour yourself a glass the next time you are going to sit outside in the sun on a beautiful summer day. 
You can spend some time pondering your own family roots over a cup of refreshing sweet tea.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tutorial: Hooded Towel

O.k., I'm about to step out on a limb here and attempt my first ever tutorial.

What I would like to attempt to share with you, is how to make a hooded towel.  These towels are great to give for baby gifts, as a gift for a first birthday, or if made with a generously sized hood, you can give them as a gift to an older child.  My sons have used these all the way up to 7 and 8 years of age.  They love them! (beware -  hooded towels may result in naked children running through the house with their 'capes' flapping behind them)
I received my first hooded towel as a baby gift from my cousin when I was pregnant with my first son. 
Since then, I have started making them for just about everyone I know who is having a baby because we have loved them so much.  They are so much better than those thin towels they market and sell for babies on the shelves at your local department store.  I am a firm believer in 'if you love something, others might love it too, so share it!'

Here is what you will need to get started:

1 bath towel
1 hand towel in a matching/coordinating color
sewing machine & thread
A rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat
seam ripper (just in case)

I typically get my towels from Target, but any good quality towels will do.

First, I like to sew the dart in the back of the bath towel:
To do that you fold the bath towel in half with the tag side on the outside.
Line up the edges and grab the towel at the center fold.  You are going to sew a line from the top edge of the towel, parallel to the fold, about 2" away from the fold.  Sew a straight line approx. 3 " long being sure to back tack at the end.

So it should look like this when you are done:

Then you are going to take the flap you have created and smoosh it flat.  So unfold the towel, take the flap, and evenly flatten it along either side of the crease you made:

See? Just like that.  Then you will want to sew that down along the edge of the towel.  This will keep it from shifting when you are sewing the hood on.
Got it?

Yay!  - this is what it looks like when you are done! 
Clip those nasty threads off please!

Here is the finished portion of the bath towel. 
See the nice pleat you've just created? 

Now we move on to the hood.  We are making a generous sized hood so that this towel can be used for babies all the way through young children.  If you want to make a smaller hood you could actually make two hoods out of one hand towel. Just cut it in half and use each half to make a hood.
But today we are using the hand towel to make one hood, so you will need to cut a portion of your hand towel off.  I used my sons head to measure how long I wanted the hood to be, basically I want the hood to nearly touch his shoulders.  That means I cut off about 5" off the end of my towel. 

In order to be able to have both sides match and be able to sew more easily, I cut the bulky finished edge off of the other side.

 Now you will take the finished edge on one side of the towel and fold it over about 2".  Make sure you look at your towel and decipher if there is a 'right' side and a 'wrong' side.  When you get your towel and hood sewn together you don't want it looking funky because you sewed one of them inside out.
In this step you are basically folding the towel so that the 'wrong' side is overlapping the 'right' side.
You are going to sew this down now.  What I do is eyeball it to keep it straight all the way down and then I sew a straight line right next to that finished edge of the towel, on the double thick side of course.  If you are no good at eyeballing, then go ahead and measure and pin this folded piece to keep it nice and even.

I like to embellish my hooded towels.  This is for cuteness factor only, it has nothing to do with function.  Although it in no way inhibits the function of the towel.
So get out some coordinating ribbon, cut it just longer than the length of the towel and sew it on.  Depending how thick the ribbon is, I will either simply sew it down the center, or I will sew it down along both sides.

When you are done it will look like this:

Next comes the tricksy part: the tuck in the back of the hood.

Fold your hood in half with the 'right' sides together. 

Along the fold, toward the back of the hood you are going to tuck the fold down in between the sides of the hood making a M shape with the towel. I find that this is easiest to do if I have the folded hood laying flat on the table in front of me.  Then I can grab the edge of the fold with my finger and pull it down sandwiching it between the sides of the towel. Make sense?  This is the hardest part, but the most important.

Keeping things together, stick that end in your sewing machine and about 2 1/2" from the edge, sew a straight line all the way from the top to the bottom.  You want the hood deep enough for baby's head to fit inside comfortably with some space for growing.


Now go ahead and cut the excess fabric off after your straight sewn line. Leave about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch.

Here is your finished hood. You can adjust the size as needed.

This is what the back tuck in the hood should look like when you have finished it properly. This is the key to the function of this hood.  I like how it fits so much better than other hood styles I have seen.

Placing both of the 'right' sides together, match the raw edge side of the hood with the top of the bath towel where you sewed the pleat.  I like to match the center seam of the hood with the center seam of the pleat.  Here is where pinning could come in handy. 

Now you are going to sew the hood onto the towel!  Make sure to back tack at the beginning and end!  You are going to be sewing through a lot of bulk in the center of this towel.  Be sure to go slowly.  I have broken more than one needle while doing this step. I use about a 1/2" seam allowance while I'm sewing.  I try and get as close to the finished edge of the bath towel as I can (while not being able to see it).  When you are done sewing check and make sure you caught both towels the whole way, you don't want any open spots.
With that, you should be done!

 Wyat agreed to model the finished product for me, even though the towel is pink. 
A girl color. 
Which he was not thrilled about. 
But he still did it for me. 
Tate didn't have a problem modeling the purple towel.  
Apparently, that's a boy or girl color.
Seth flat out refused to have a pink towel touch his head!

I hope the tutorial was clear enough and had enough pictures to make it easy to follow.  I'd love to hear your comments on what I could improve if you try this tutorial out.  I'd also love to see a picture of your finished product!
 I hope you are able to sew many hooded towels for the babies and toddlers in your life.  The naked super hero's running through the house make up for all the hard work. 
Thanks for stopping by!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Well, What do You Think?

Well, after much distress and many attempts I have finally improved the blog header!  Thank you for the free back ground.  I just added my own picture and text on

I think it's a vast improvement from what was up there before, however, it's a little busier than I would have chosen if I had made it myself.

Which is the next step.

Making one myself.

Oh despair! Oh agony! Oh why didn't I take more graphic design classes when I was in college (?an undisclosed amount, if you know me well enough you can do the math yourself?) years ago?  Who am I kidding, it's all different now anyway. 

Actually, I'd really like to be able to design stuff on the computer.  Maybe it's time for this Momma to look into a tech class.  Or maybe an on-line design course. 

Hmmm, as if I don't have enough to do, home schooling 3 boys and loving a husband, keeping a house in some semblance of order, doing massive amounts of laundry, etc.  Right?

Well, maybe I could squeeze it in.  It would be beneficial to me and then I could teach my boys something instead of them teaching me something. About computers that is.

Anyone have any ideas on a good class?

So, comments please.  I'd love some feedback on the header.  If you don't tell me what you think I'll let  my dog get after you.

If you don't she's scary enough, then I've got this kid -

Trust me, you should be scared of him.  ;)

Thanks for reading.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Beach Bummin'

We have been experiencing some unusual weather here in the Northwoods.  This past weekend, we had temps in the 80's/90's.

I'm not very precise, I know. I prefer not knowing just how terribly hot it is. 
All I know is that it was HOT!

Friday, after hitting some rummage sales where we scored some sweet finds, we spent the afternoon at the beach with our favorite chubby baby - Miss E! (and her mom, and auntie)

Just look at this little pixie! Those marshmallow cheeks and fudge-brown eyes are so yummy!

My boys think so too.

Are you ready for a ooey-gooey, oh-so-adorable photo?

Oh. My. Word.


And there's this one too.

Ha! You can see a bit of a devilish gleam in her eye.  She'd had enough of cuddling with the boys. (probably because of their soggy wet shorts).
That's right.  It's not all sweet in marshmallow baby-land.

Then, because of the icky-gelatinous algae still occupying the water, we had a visit from a couple of swamp monsters.

Yes, by George! He is wearing an over sized wet-suit without the pants. 
He's going to get very - wet.

Don't forget this guy.  With the goggles smashing his eyeballs, he'll be lucky to make it to the water.

But no worries, the boys had their very own life guard . . .

Super Wyat to the rescue! 

Oh man, I love these boys. 

I love sunny days at the beach.

I love time with friends.

Gee, I guess I've got a lot to love!

How very blessed I am.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Last week we were able to set an evening aside for a family outing.

A friend of ours sent us a thank you note for letting Troy travel down to lend him a hand on some projects the previous weekend. In his note he included a gift and told us it was for us to go out as a family. 
I'm sure we could have saved it for something like the stock car races or the fair, maybe even the fee at a campground, something that we don't usually do.  But since we had just been apart for the past weekend, and we were going to have company for the coming weekend, we thought it would be a good opportunity to use it now. 
So we packed up and headed to town and went out to eat at our favorite authentic Mexican restaurant, La Mexicana! We had chips and salsa, guacamole, quesadilla's, lime soda's, sope's, burrito's and taquito's until we were stuffed! Mmmm, it was so good.  If you are ever passing through Antigo at lunch or dinner time, this is the place to go.
After dinner, even though we could barely move, we thought it would be fun to go bowling.  There weren't a ton of options for a family on a Wednesday night, but bowling is something we don't do very often and the kids enjoy.

So here is our blurry bowling collage!  Taking pictures that turn out in a bowling alley is hard!  Especially when your kids won't be still long enough for you to focus and take a picture.  But oh well, you get the idea. 
We had a fun time, after we gave up trying to teach the boys how to bowl properly.  They just weren't getting it. 
Troy ended up with the winning score.  Of course.  Although for a few rounds, Wyat was surprisingly holding the lead.
And yes, we did use bumpers.  Otherwise the kids wouldn't have a score. 
And neither would I.  That's right, I'm a closet bumper lover. 
I only bowl with small children so I can have a chance at a higher score. 
Now you know.
After bowling, our stomach's had settled enough to realize, we needed ice cream.
Although we are usually Culver's fans, we chose Dairy Queen this time.  They really do have the best hot fudge.
After that, it was time for the long ride home, and into bed the kids went. 
Me too. 
All that eating and bowling is tiring.

When was the last time you went bowling?  It's a fun and inexpensive outing for a family.
Maybe you'll have an opportunity to try out your local bowling alley this week!
They'll appreciate the business, and you'll have fun! Pin It

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Think It's Finally Here!

Yes, I think we may be able to say it.
Are you ready?

Summer is Here!

The last few days have been completely, wonderfully, beautiful.
Absolutely Perfect.

I LOVE summer.

Yesterday I hung my laundry on the clothesline to dry in the breeze.
This morning I was able to eat my breakfast out on the deck.
That makes my heart happy.

In the summertime we spend a lot of time outside.
We spend a lot of time at SBR.
We spend a lot of time swimming at the lake.
Well, the kids swim. 
I just work on my tan. When you are as pale as I am, it takes a lot of effort to look tan.

Yesterday, we went over to SBR and met some friends. 

Sitting and chatting around the mandatory campfire.

playing at the park

After playing together at the park for a while, it was so warm, the kids wanted to go down to the beach.
So we did!

The kids had soooooooooooo (yes, that much) fun playing in the kayaks and paddle boats down at the lake.  They splashed and played and paddled and laughed for more than two hours.  Long enough for me to get a sun burn.  7 kids, happy as clams, playing in the green algae infested water.
Meanwhile, while they were splashing and having such a good time, I was able to have some good girl-time with the momma of all these cute blond kiddo's and my friend Caiti and her sister.
One of my favorite ways to while away an afternoon. 
Happy kids and sweet fellowship. 
Doesn't get much better than that.

We'll be doing a lot more of this kinda thing this summer.
How about joining us?

How do you plan on spending your summer days?
I'd love some ideas!

Now go outside and enjoy this weather!
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The New Addition

For all of you SBR lovers who happen to follow along here at No Ordinary Sparrow, I enjoy filling you in on the latest news at camp when I can.

We all recognize spring as a time of new life.
This is never more evident than when you have farm animals. 
God has designed animals to give birth in the spring when there will be warm temperatures and fresh food in abundance.
The North Star stable has it's own new addition this spring.
Let me introduce you to Jedediah, our brand new, mini-mule.

Awwwww!! Isn't he cute? 
Now for those of you out there who aren't farmiliar with the unique breeding of a mule, let me fill you in.  You get a mule when you breed a mare horse with a stud donkey.  Not the other way around.  According to my friend Caiti, whose husband runs the barn at SBR, when you breed a stud horse with a mare donkey you can sometimes get a Hinny.  But it's rare. Mule's are much easier to come by. Why are they different? You'd have to ask a much smarter person than I am. 
Or you could Google it. 
For now, you can just rest easy knowing that they are.
Our mule is unique because we bred a mini-donkey to a mini-horse so now we have a mini-mule! He's only about the size of a labrador retriever (only with much smaller feet).  In fact the biggest thing on him is his head!
Kinda like people babies.

He's a cute addition to the barn yard. 
Come on up and see him, and all the other things we''ve got going on at SBR this summer.
We'd love to see you.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012


O.k people.  I am going to try my hardest to win one of these fabulous Epiphanie camera bags.  They are doing a give away every month, so I will enter every month.
It's kind of fun because you have to take a photo and post it to enter, so I'm getting some extra photog practice.
This months challenge is: morning

I entered the Epiphanie Camera Bags + Photo Card Boutique Picture It photo contest!

I guess if I had to title it, I'd call it: Morning's Blush

I got to play around with it on picmonkey to make it a little more fabulous.  Although, I'm a bit torn about photo shopping pic's.  I really want to take pictures that are amazing, without any touching up or effects. But sometimes it's fun.

Wish me luck! I really do need a new camera bag. Mine is about 15 years old and my camera and zoom lense bang together inside it.  Plus I'm not sure the padding is up to snuff for tip-top protection.
If you don't know me very well, you should know that I drop stuff.
I'm the reason they invented cases for your cell phone.
I've got slippery fingers.  I don't try and drop stuff, it just happens. 
I know I've dropped my camera case at least 5 times.  Usually out of the back of my van. 
I've been eyeing up the Ginger bag.  That sweet bag would give me a lot more protection plus functionality.
As a Mama of 3 boys, don't I need a little something pretty?  
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Weekend Bucket List: Part two

O.k. friends, we are going back to my sisters weekend visit and our weekend bucket list.
 I will finish this mini-series at some point in time, I promise.
What can I say, life is busy!
So instead of showering, I'm gonna write this blog post. 
So brace yourself for a collage montage.

Item #2: go the museum (The Leigh Yawkeye Woodson Art Museum of course)

Although the day didn't begin nicely, by the time we got to the museum, the weather was gorgeous.  I think this is the first time it wasn't cold and rainy when we've been there. Consequently, the kids thoroughly enjoyed running through the statue gardens. 

We were a little worried that the kids wouldn't really dig the exhibit this time around.  Dinotopia moved out and NASA moved in.  The NASA exhibit was different artists representations of the NASA program.  In the top photo, the kids are standing in front of our favorite painting in the exhibit which was painted by Norman Rockwell.
Downstairs in the kid area, they brought in some fun new costumes and activities.  The kids all really enjoyed it. 
When we were talking about the museum later, Seth told me that this exhibit had been his favorite so far! Yay NASA! Maybe I've got a future astronaut?

Again, one of the great things about the museum, is that when you are bringing the kids, you don't have to feel like you need to stay forever.  We get in, look around, and play for a little bit and then leave.  I think we were there for an hour tops.  The kids can get their exposure to the art world in small and fun snippets. It's perfect.

Item #3: Eat Cupcakes!

Since I was a fabulous Friday facebook winner at Sweet Lola's for some pic's I posted on their facebook wall from our last visit, I had to take the crew for some free cupcakes at our favorite cupcakery.

I hope you enjoy this collage of the epic destruction of the chocolate birthday surprise cupcake. Don't judge me for being as giddy as a kid over eating my cupcake.  I know, I know, I'm ana adult and I picked a cupcake with blue frosting.  Does it get anymore child like than that?
Well, I may even have a chocolate smear on my lips when I'm all done. How's that for child like?
Saving it for later, you know?

It was fun to take a passel of kidlets into the cupcakery and watch their eyes glaze over at the images of the sugar overload through the glass of the bakery case.
My sister's kidlets hadn't been to a cupcakery before.
We were breaking virgin ground in their little lives.
I'm so glad I could be the Auntie who made it happen.

I don't want to leave my sister out! She may kill me for posting these, but I had to include her.  She did a good job of destroying her own cupcake. It was a vanilla almond something-or-other.
She's not a chocolate girl (GASP!)

See the one in the box.  The creamy one on the top right?  That's the one I took home for Hunky Hubby.  It was called Mango Coconut. I was eyeballing it for myself at the bakery case (it took me like 10 minutes to decide on my order).  But the chocolate tricks me every time.  I should have ordered this one.  It was divine! I know because H.H. shared with me.  I ate and entire spoonful of creamy decadent frosting and didn't feel a bit guilty. 
It was that good.
Next time I need to make a better choice, I'm a frosting snob and although my cupcake of choice was tasty, it had a frosting that was too sugary for me. Both the cupcakes that I've picked out for H.H. have had perfectly divine frosting. I guess I need to learn to step outside my cupcake comfort box.

So there you have it.  Two more things we were able to check off our weekend bucket list. There's only one more left! Stay tuned!

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