October 01, 2015

Lena and Natalie Crochet

I think I mentioned a while back that I've been planning to start selling my crochet items again. Well, I finally am! If you're friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram (@lenaandnataliecrochet, you know that already. But, if you only read the blog (I think there are a few of you), you don't know that I will be selling things via Instagram starting October 5!  Here's the whole story...

The Name
First of all, a little background on the name. My Oma, my maternal grandmother, taught me how to crochet (and knit, but I prefer to crochet). She taught me some basic stitches, and I've taught myself everything else through books and the internet. Most of you who know my Oma know her as Helen, which is legally her name, but her family calls her Lena. I believe it's short for Magdalena. When she moved to the U.S. from Germany she changed her name to Helen, but I love the name Lena. The first part of the name of my crochet "store" comes from my Oma who taught me the physical act of crochet, but also shared with me her love for yarn and color and creating things.
My paternal grandmother, my Grammy, was an artist. She painted beautiful landscapes and portraits and animals. She and my Pop-Pop met in art school in New York. I took art lessons from Grammy off and on; private lessons and in art class at my school where she taught for a year. She taught me about how colors work together and interact and how to pay attention to colors around me. Her name was Natalie.
And thus, Lena and Natalie Crochet

The Store
For now I will be selling directly through Instagram. Basically, every Monday, I will post pictures of a few items. The first person to comment with their PayPal email address commits to purchasing the item. I will send an invoice, and when the invoice is paid, the item will be shipped. For now, I'm limiting the store to Instagram, but I may also open an Etsy store again. I have yet to decide. I know there are some people who are not on Instagram, and I understand that you will not be able to purchase anything yet, but I will eventually solve that problem...maybe.If you desperately want something I posted on Facebook, send me a message and we can talk about it. I am not currently doing any custom orders; it is just two much with a baby and making enough to have new items every week. Plus, I'd like to have time to make some stuff for my own kid. :)

The Giveaway
I'm also hosting a giveaway on Instagram. It was supposed to end tonight at midnight, but I think I'm going to extend the deadline one more day. The winner will receive a $25 credit to my shop!
To enter:
1. Like the original post on Instagram.
2. Share the original post on Instagram and tag @LenaandNatalieCrochet.

For an extra entry, tag a friend in the comments of the original Instagram post. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on October 3rd.

What do you think? What kinds of things would you like to see in the store?

September 28, 2015

Food for Little Tummies (Baby Led Weaning)

I've mentioned on the blog before that we've decided to do baby led weaning (BLW) to introduce Cai to solid foods. This meant that we skipped purees and rice cereal and went straight to solid foods. In the beginning it mostly looked like Cai shoving food into his mouth, tasting it, experiencing the texture, mashing it around a little bit, and spitting it back out, but as he has grown, it now looks like a small person eating food (and it's super fun to watch).

I just wanted to share a few of the recipes that have worked for us (nutritious and easy for little hands).

 Breakfast Hash
This was a go to meal for me in the end of IVF and the beginning of pregnancy when I was trying to eat lots of protein, but with just a little bit o tweaking, it's been great for Cai too. I made enough for us to share


  • Potatoes, cut into grabbable sticks
  • Fresh herbs (I used basil and rosemary and scallions)
  • Shredded cheese (I used parm. and cheddar)
  • Eggs
  • Milk (we use raw milk)
  • EVOO
  • Sausage (optional depending on your baby. Cai doesn't do well with sausage skin, so I either take the skin off or leave it out)


  • Brown potatoes in hot skillet with EVOO.
  • If you're using sausage, add that next and cook until brown.
  • In separate bowl, scramble eggs with herbs, cheese, and a splash of milk.
  • Add eggs to skillet and use spatula to scramble all of the ingredients.

Farmer's Market Pizza
I won't bother posting a recipe for this, but I was super proud of this recipe. I used all ingredients from the farmer's market, my own potted herbs, and a local farm. Everything was pesticide free. 

  • Brick oven chabatta bread
  • Farm fresh mozarella
  • Tomato sauce
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh rosemary

Strawberry French Toast
Again, I won't post a recipe for this one, because I'm sure you know how to  make French toast, but basically I made French toast and then spread cream cheese on it and added strawberries.

  • Bread (I think I used some of my dad's homemade sourdough bread)
  • Egg
  • Cinnamon
  • Milk
  • Cream cheese
  • Strawberries, sliced

Sweet Potato Fries
Not only did Cai love them, but Steve did too. 

  • Sweet potatoes, cut like fries
  • Coconut oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Curry
  • Toss cut sweet potatoes in coconut oil and spices to taste (we liked ours with a mix of sweet and savory spices)
  • Spread onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake until soft enough to chew.

We have loved BLW (and so has Cai). It can be messy, but it's so much fun to watch your little one explore foods. And so far, Cai loves everything we've given him except artichokes. Yay for not being a picky eater!

September 23, 2015

Gallery Wall on the Cheap

Just a quick post with a quick explanation of a project I recently did.
I love the look of gallery walls. My Pinterest boards are filled with them.

Young House Love

And my own gallery wall in our hallway.

And with all of the great pictures we have of Cai and the family photos that Kristen Fuest Photography did for us a few months ago, I was looking for a way to display them. But money is tight, and picture frames are expensive, as are prints. So, I had to find a way to do things inexpensively.

I started by ordering prints from Shutterfly.com. I also subscribe to the app Groovebook which is an awesome way to keep up with photo prints, so I used some of those. I then picked out some frames at The Dollar Tree.  I spent $15.00 there. I couldn't find fifteen matching frames, but I made sure that all of the frames of a certain size matched each other. I wanted white frames against our gray wall, so I painted them with some acrylic paint. 

Arranging them was harder than I expected. I though I wanted the look of a random arrangement, but I couldn't get it to look "random" and organized at the same time. The diamond arrangement sort of evolved when I was playing around, and that's what I went with. I mounted them with 3m Command Strips which I think work bests for this sort of thing. With nails and picture hangers, the frame can end up hanging a little differently than you expected, but the strips (although a little bit more pricey) are easy to get in the exact position you want them. 

So, nothing amazing here, but it was a nice way to showcase our family photos and our little Cai without spending a ton of money. 

September 19, 2015

Wood Stove: Before and After

Another change I've been meaning to show on the blog is the wood stove and chimney. 
This is what the wood stove looked like when we moved in and the house still belonged to my grandparents. Oma's style is very...Oma-ish, haha. The walls were cream, the border was floral, and, well, there was a lot of stuff. It's hard to tell in this picture, but the black parts of the stove were turning red.

Then we moved in and painted the wall gray and the chimney red. This was also before we put in out entertainment center. Shortly after this I painted the black areas of the stove with black stove paint (Did you know there's such a think as stove paint? I didn't; my dad had some).

And this is what it looks like now. You can see how much darker the stove is (except that one red strip at the top that I missed). Most recently, I painted the chimney that dark gray, and I am so much happier with it. We liked the red when we did it because we had red, teal, and mustard accents in the room, but I've slowly been cutting back the colors until it is now just gray with teal accents. I love the way the zinnias pop against the dark background. It's harder to see in the photo, but our family picture pops nicely too. Eventually we want to pain all of the trim white to match the trim around the door to the dining room. I'm actually super pleased with our living room right now, even with toys all over it. Again, small changes over the past four years have made a big difference.

September 18, 2015

Cai Alexander: Ten Months

So I haven't been so great at posting these updates. :( I've kept up with making the monthly pictures, but not with a monthly blog post. Cai had changed SO much in the past two months. Since I started typing this post he as climbed all over me, hugged my face, yelled a few times, and climbed off of the couch!

Cai can...

  • Climb up stairs and onto things close to the ground.
  • Cruise around the furniture quite quickly.
  • Climb off of the bed and couches.
  • Stand on his own.
  • Walk holding onto one or both of someone's hands.
  • Point to things he finds interesting or wants to see more closely.
  • Open and close doors (If his bedroom door is nearly shut, he can reach it from his crib. When he wakes up he pulls it open and cries loudly!)
  • Pick up very tiny things with two fingers.
  • Wave.
  • Give high fives.
  • Touch things very gently if you say "one finger."
Cai likes to...
  • Splash in the dogs water dish or spill it.
  • Race to the dog's food dish when I feed him, grab a fistful of food, then spin in a circle on his butt to get away from me.
  • Climb on the dog...or people...or furniture.
  • Touch everything he knows he's not supposed to, especially electrical cords, Mama's laptop, and Grangy and Grandpa Jack's TV.
  • Steal the dog's bone.
  • Throw the dog's ball or wait for Finn to grab it out of his hand.
  • Choose a diaper to wear when Mama gives him the choice of two.
  • Touch flowers and earrings gently.
  • "Sing" to himself while he plays.
  • Laugh and be tickled.
  • Hang upside down.
  • Be pushed onto the bed or into a pile of pillows/blankets.
  • Watch things out the window/sliding glass door.
  • Eat!
  • Laugh at funny noises.
  • Open and close the glass door between the living room and dining room.
  • Watch the laundry spin in the washing machine.
Physical growth...

Cai doesn't have another well baby check until one year, but at his nine month appointment he was 18 lbs. 6 oz. (20th percentile) and 29 in. tall (75th percentile). He has two teeth on the bottom and four on the top that are about to pop through at any second. He is so close to walking! We're pretty sure he's capable of it but afraid to try.      

This week, Cai has become super destructive, haha. Actually really just the past two days. He knocked over a floor lamp and broke a light bulb, spilled a cup of coffee and a large glass of water at my parents' house. shattered my mom's 9x13 dish, kicked the lamp off of his changing table and cracked the shade...all while an adult was within inches of him. He is strong and fast and determined!

Overall, Cai is a joy. His personality shows more and more every day. He's definitely not a super easy kid anymore; he doesn't sleep super well, he's quite difficult to discipline, and he has a temper, but even the hard parts are wonderful. 

September 16, 2015

Kitchen: Before and After

I have about a billion blog posts I want to write, and never seem to be able to actually do them. It's not that I don't have time, I just don't have time and the ability to focus at the same time, I guess.
Plus, someone likes to wait until he sees me on my laptop then come over and touch everything that he knows he's not supposed to touch (and I have a touch screen laptop).

But, I thought I'd write this one right now before I have time to forget it or do something else (also my house is moderately clean right now, so I don't have to feel guilty about typing instead of cleaning...except for the four baskets full of clean laundry that need to be folded and put away :/ ).

I was looking at my Timehop app today, and came across some pictures of my kitchen four years ago on the day after we moved in...or rather moved up because we had already been living in the basement. I was shocked at how much the kitchen had changed. I mean, I know we did a ton of work on it, but it was all done a little at a time, so the change now seems so dramatic. The pictures clearly aren't professional grade, and my kitchen isn't perfectly clean, but you can still see the difference.


 We still want to change the counter tops, particularly the island (you can't see it in these pictures) which is still pink. I really want butcher block counter tops and maybe and under mount sink, but that's WAY down the road at this point. Almost all of the changes we've made so far have been relatively inexpensive. Obviously we painted. We also put the new backsplash up which is actually pvc laid over the old backsplash.
We bought the new cabinet hardware from Ikea and the new faucet from Home Depot. Most of the plates come from Target, Pier One, and my (and my mom's) cabinets. I covered the switchplates with scrapbook paper, and it's one of my favorite updates. I know that sounds silly, but it adds the pop of color I like. You can't tell in the picture, but the design is little kitchen appliances and utensils. I think the only other update is the dishwasher which we just recently bought. The one we had was ancient, and although it worked decently the springs had broken on the door and it very easily fell open if we didn't keep it locked. We thought we had fixed it, but then it fell open one day and missed Cai's head by about two inches. That's when Steve decided we needed a new one. And we were able to get one that had everything we needed and was deeply discounted! Also not pictured, we replaced the ceiling fan above the center island with a cheap light fixture from Walmart. We made the switch right before we listed the house on the market two years ago, and picked something that was modern but inexpensive (from Walmart). It's probably not exactly what I would have picked had I known we wouldn't be moving, but it's a major update from the fan (which we didn't really use).

I love that even though my kitchen isn't perfect, it's a bright and sunshiny place that I enjoy cooking in.

July 02, 2015

On How the Battle with Infertility is Never Over

God has blessed us with the best little man we could ask for.

We are so blessed that we were able to conceive him on our first round of IVF.

We are so blessed that we were able to freeze four embryos.

We are so blessed that God provided the money we needed to conceive Cai when we needed it.

We are so thankful for the amazing ways God has worked in our life as a family.

Our battle with infertility has changed so much because of what the Lord has chosen to do in our lives, but I'm quickly realizing that it is not gone.

We have four frozen embryos. In other words, we have four frozen babies. We plan to attempt to conceive all four of these babies by doing two frozen embryo transfers (FET) with two embryos each. These will cost around $5,000 each, give or take a thousand.

We originally planned to do our first FET when Cai was just over a year old, approximately five or six months from now. Then life happened. Steve lost his job (through no fault of his own), and although he has found a new one (praise the Lord), our income is less than half of what it was when we did IVF. This means that we really have no idea when we will be able to do a FET. It makes me anxious as I turned thirty this year and can feel that internal clock ticking.

On the other side of things, despite the fact that I am still breastfeeding (side note: breastfeeding and cloth diapering have been a huge blessing with the lack of income we dealt with for awhile. Basically, we didn't have to spend anything on Cai!), my cycle has returned. This is nearly miraculous as I never had a normal cycle ever and was wondering if it would ever even bother coming back. And not only has it returned, but it is more normal than it has been since I was in high school. Kind of crazy.

So now this presents a new dilemma. If pregnancy has helped to kick start my body into being closer to normal (apparently pregnancy can help with PCOS), and because we will not be able to afford a FET for at least another year or more, do we consider trying to get pregnant naturally?

Again, that clock is ticking and the younger I am the easier conceiving could be, so if we were to try to conceive naturally, now would be the time.

But what if we do get pregnant, then do to FETs and end up with six children? Are we okay with that?

Or what if we don't try, wait to do the FETs, and end up not getting pregnant with any, and miss any possible window to conceive naturally.

I mean, I know that ultimately God has a plan for the size of our family, and he will give us the strength to handle whoever comes our way, whether it be just Cai, five more, or a gaggle of adopted kids.

But these are things we have to think through that the average couple does not.

We can't just say, "Let's see what happens," and throw out the condoms, and that's it. We have four little lives waiting in limbo and one already in full swing who need to be considered.

I don't know.

Please don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. We have been blessed beyond our imaginations with Cai. I guess I'm just amazed with how much infertility still weighs on us. How much it still affects us despite four babies waiting for us, despite the fact that our infertility issues could potentially be disappearing, despite that fact that there is a precious little man napping in his crib right now.

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