Where I live, it's not so easy to find clothes for my little girls. And it is very, very easy for my little girls to ruin their clothes, as almost all their play involves dirt in some form or another :)

 

Here are a few very simple ways to whip up a little dress in less than 30 minutes... okay... in a short time, anyway. Some of these dresses are not your classiest ever, but at least my kids look halfway decent again for as long as it lasts! You will need a sewing machine and some basic sewing skills.

 

 

SHIRT DRESS (picture 1)

 

Find a ladies' shirt (men's would work too). Cut up the sides (see pic 2). Hem the sleeves. Sew up the sides. Done.

 

 

SLEEVELESS BLOUSE DRESS (picture 3)

 

Find a sleeveless blouse with a round neckline. Or, if there is a collar, just cut it off. Use bias tape to finish off the neckline. Thread thin elastic through the neck. Tighten to fit, sew to fasten. If desired, you can take in the sides a bit to make it less blousy. I added a strip of contrasting fabric to the hem to lengthen it. Done. (I have also heard of people making a similar dress out of a pillowcase!)

 

 

T-SHIRT DRESS (picture 4)

 

Winner for comfort! Find a t-shirt. Find a piece of matching fabric. Or vice versa ;) Gather the fabric onto the waist of the t-shirt (note: this is not the bottom of the shirt but where the natural waistline would be). I often add elastic in between the shirt and the skirt so the shirt doesn't stretch out as you sew. Hem the skirt. Done.

 

 

PEASANT DRESS (picture 5,6)

 

My favorite. There is an excellent free pattern for this dress here: onceuponasewingmachine.com/diy-toddler-peasant-dress. For my oldest (3 years old) I often add some elastic in the waist. This pattern is so versatile and can make a tunic or shirt as well, and sleeves in any length. And while you're at it, why not make a matching dress for the baby? :)

 

 

Toddler Dress





When we lived in West Africa, we were introduced to a local leaf vegetable similar to spinach. Our people actually cooked with several different kinds of greens, some of which were sour, some slimey, and mostly a bit difficult for our Western taste buds. :-) But one plant was quite delicious, perhaps even a milder taste than spinach. It was by far the cheapest and most easily available vegetable in our location, so I learned how to use it regularly! Greens are so good for you, too.

The preparation time for vegetables, especially greens, can be significant. So this is a task I turned over to our house-help. She would go to market (or to a friend nearby) and bring back a huge bag of greens. Then she would spend the entire morning washing and chopping. We found that washing the leaves three times worked best for avoiding bits of sand in our food. :-) Once she had huge bowls piled with chopped greens, we began the process of blanching them all. Using a steamer, we cooked the greens in batches just for about 3 minutes, until the leaves were wilted down. Then we cooled them down, packaged in 1 cup baggies, and put them in the freezer. A morning's work would yeild about 30 packages of greens in the freezer!

I used these greens just like frozen spinach in the States. Since they were chopped small, I found that I could put a small amount in almost any dish and my kids would eat it. Actually, because I started puting spinach in things when they were just babies, both of my boys grew up loving it! When we came back to the States and didn't have anything with spinach in it for several weeks, my 3 year old started asking for it. :-) Here's a quick list (not exhaustive) of the dishes I would add greens to . . . 

regular pizza

chicken alfredo pizza

spaghetti or lasagna

chicken gravy over biscuits

macaroni and cheese

curry (this I would make with greens as the main vegetable. I'll share the recipe later!)

fried rice

scrambled eggs/omlets

peanut butter soup (a local recipe)

And of course, you can also cook them with a little butter and salt as a side dish for all kinds of chicken or fish dishes!

Lastly, a recipe from our local food, made with lots of greens. This was a big favorite of my husband's, and I made it almost weekly!

Creamy Greens Stew

1 chopped onion

1/2 c. oil

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 c. water

4 c. fresh greens

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 c. pounded nuts or seeds (you can use natural peanut butter or almond butter here in the States)

salt & red pepper to taste

Saute onion in oil, then add tomato for a few minutes. Add water, fresh greens and garlic. Cook until greens are soft. Then add nut paste, salt and red pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve over steamed rice. Serves 4.

Last year, I was introduced to the idea of OneWord365. I didn't join the community, but I loved the idea of choosing a word to focus on for the year. A word to grow into, to intentionally shape your life around.

 

The word I chose was thrive. At the beginning of 2015, we had just moved again for the seventh time in three years. We were in the midst of burnout. It felt like our whole married life (almost five years at that point) we'd just been surviving. Holding on for the next season. Waiting for things to get better, more settled, easier. I was tired of living in survival mode.

It was time to thrive.

I was realizing that it might be a long time until our life felt settled. It might be a long time until things were easy again. With a burned out, depressed husband and many questions about our future, I wasn't even sure how we were going to survive, let alone thrive. But that was the word God put on my heart. Thrive.

So I wrote it down. And then I wrote out what thriving looked like to me. My list was divided into categories, and included things like "weekly meal plans", "regular date nights", "daily exercise" and "hospitality". I chose my one word, and then I made a whole list of New Year's Resolutions that I felt would help me live out that word.

Little did I know that things were going to get worse before they got better. I've already shared some of our story, so many of you know that by April we were desperate for help and signed up for a three-week counseling program. Not exactly thriving. At some point about halfway through the year, after a few months of barely surviving, I pulled out my New Year's list. As I read down through all the worthy goals I had set for myself, I felt hopelessly condemned. I most certainly picked the wrong word. This was not a year to thrive.

And then it hit me. Thriving is not defined by whether or not my kitchen is clean, my meals are planned, or my husband is taking me out for a date. Thriving is the state of my heart, an attitude. I can accomplish my to-do list and still not be thriving. On the other hand, I can rest in God in the midst of turmoil, confusion and pain, and my heart can thrive.

I still don't feel like I did a good job of living out my OneWord this year. I do not feel like I thrived. But I did learn that thriving is not something you do, it's something you are. I did realize how quick I am to make lists and measure my success by what I get done, instead of focusing on the attitude of my heart. I did learn that God is not nearly as interested in my goals and accomplishments as He is in meeting me in my pain and weakness.

And now that I've learned those things, I think I'm ready to learn to thrive.

 

This article is part of a link-up at Velvet Ashes. Don't miss the great articles there about other ladies' experiences with their word for the year!

 

rsz ow 365

Every Saturday morning, we have pancakes for breakfast. We started this tradition in Ghana, where there were not so many other breakfast options. Now it's a habit that is here to stay. When my husband and I got married, I asked my mother-in-law for her pancake recipe. She rarely makes them, but when she does, nobody wants to miss out! These are seriously the best pancakes ever. My whole family loves them, but sometimes I do make a healthier variation, to make me feel better about having pancakes every week. :-)

 

Besides my two favorite pancake recipes, I'm also including my three favorite syrup recipes. (It's your lucky day - five recipes in one blog post!!) My husband loves carmel syrup on his pancakes. The chocolate syrup we more often put on other things . . . but it's great on pancakes too.

 

When you're making the pancakes, you can mix in one of our favorite add-ins:

chocolate chips

blueberries

strawberries

mangoes (diced)

cinnamon & raisins

 

Or set out a variety of toppings. In addition to the three types of syrup, you could try

peanut butter

bananas

jelly, especially orange marmalade

Nutella or similar chocolate spread

cream cheese

cherry pie filling

 

Combine toppings to make a really special treat . . . for example, spread a pancake with peanut butter, cover with sliced bananas, and drizzle with chocolate syrup. Or spread with cream cheese and top with jelly. Or use your own imagination for endless possibliites! For a special occasion (New Year's Day is this weekend!), make a pancake breakfast bar, and let people build their own yummy treat. Of course you can always get creative and make heart-shaped pancakes for Valentines Day or use toppings to make a face pancake for a child's birthday. Have fun!

 

 

Mom's Greatest Pancakes

1 egg

2 Tbsp oil

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 c. milk

1 c. flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients. Do not overmix. Bake on hot griddle or skillet about 3 minutes on each side.

 

Healthy Multigrain Pancakes

2 eggs

1 3/4 c. milk

1/4 c. oil

1/4 c. sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c. white flour

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. cornmeal

1/2 c. quick-cooking oats

1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients. Do not overmix. Bake on hot griddle or skillet about 3 minutes on each side.

 

Maple Syrup

3 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. water

1 tsp maple flavoring

Combine sugar and water. Bring ot a boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to boil over. Remove from heat and add maple flavoring.

 

Chocolate Syrup

3/4 c. brown sugar

3/4 c. white sugar

1 c. cocoa

1 c. water

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients. Simmer on low heat until slightly reduced, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.

 

Carmel Syrup

1 small can (2/3 c.) evaporated milk

2/3 c. brown sugar (white sugar will not work)

1/2 tsp vanilla

pinch of saltCombine milk, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat 5-10 minutes, until mixture darkens, looking more like carmel, and less milky. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

 

Do you have a favorite pancake recipe? What toppings does your family like on their pancakes?