How to Cook Quinoa (plus a favorite breakfast recipe)

A few friends have asked me recently, “What do I do with quinoa?!” Even quinoa’s name is intimidating, right? (It’s pronounced “keen-wah,” if you’re wondering) But, in reality, it’s not that difficult to make and is well worth the effort.

Quinoa is a good source of protein; one cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. This makes it a great substitute for pasta, as well as a good supplement to help other more expensive proteins (like meat) stretch further.

how to cook quinoa, plus an easy breakfast recipe

The most important thing to know about cooking quinoa is that you need to rinse it before cooking it in order to remove the natural and bitter-flavored coating, saponin. It tastes much better if you rinse first!

So, rinse it and then cook it similarly to how you’d make rice:

  • Add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water into a saucepan.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook about 10-15 minutes until all water is absorbed.
  • When quinoa is done cooking, it looks soft and translucent with the outer ring of the grain separated.

The options are nearly endless for quinoa — you can use this as a side to your favorite meat, a topping for salads, or just add some olive oil and parmesan as a healthier (and more filling) pasta substitute.

One of our favorite quinoa recipes is quinoa-oatmeal, inspired by a Trader Joe’s frozen breakfast option. Their version is frozen in single servings with maple syrup mixed in. You could freeze your version in muffin tins and then transfer them to a ziploc bag. But, we go through a lot in one week, so I just mix up a big batch at the beginning of the week and eat it a few mornings throughout.  To make this:

  • Cook up one batch of quinoa as above.
  • Cook a double batch of Irish steel cut oats according to package directions (For our package, that means 8 cups water and 2 cups of steel cut oats. About 5 minutes after the water and oats start boiling, the oats will thicken. Turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s your desired consistency.)
  • Mix the cooked quinoa and oats together. Top with maple syrup, brown sugar, or whatever other favorite oatmeal toppings. Enjoy!

What are your favorite easy and healthy breakfast options?


Fall Pinterest Challenge: Magnetic Message Board

craft ideas, a homemade gift

Last week, Young House Love announced their Fall Pinterest Challenge and I was excited to get crafting! Last Pinterest Challenge, I made this kindle case.  This time around, I wanted to make something that I could use as a budget-friendly gift and that would be super easy to craft (no tricky button holes this time!).  I decided to make a magnetic message board like this one from Cinnaberry Suite because I bought the cookie sheet a few months ago and just hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with it.

This craft was, indeed, super easy and, since I already had mod podge, paint, sandpaper, and scrapbook paper on hand, I only spent $1 on the cookie sheet (Gotta love the Dollar Tree!).  I think I actually worked on it for about an hour, plus some time waiting between coats for the paint and mod podge to dry.  Doesn’t get much easier than that.

After much deliberation, I decided to use fun bird-themed paper… and to keep it for myself, haha. I realized I’d be ruining someone’s surprise if I made their gift and posted it on my blog!

I didn’t want to have to mess with multiple layers of paper so chose one that looked interesting on its own.  And, since I didn’t want the message board to look completely like a cookie sheet, I decided to paint it before mod podging on the paper.

craft ideas, a homemade gift

I sanded the entire surface of the cookie sheet to rough it up a bit in hopes that the paint would stick better.craft ideas, a homemade gift

Usually, I tend toward more neutral/traditional colors in decorating, but I’ve been wanting to branch out into bolder colors, so figured this little message board would be a good opportunity. I mixed up green, blue, and white acrylic paints (because that’s what I had on hand) until the color matched one of the tones from the bird paper.

Next, I painted anywhere on the front of the cookie sheet that wouldn’t be covered by paper and let it dry overnight.

craft ideas, a homemade gift

The next night, I went to mod podge the paper. I just cut the paper to size, leaving a little border between the paper and the rim of the cookie sheet (the cookie sheet is taller than the 12″ piece of paper). I put the mod podge on the back of the paper and very, very carefully laid it on the cookie sheet, making sure to smooth out any bubbles. Then, I let it dry for a little bit before spreading a layer of mod podge on top of the paper and around the lip of the cookie sheet.

I did a few layers of mod podge, letting it dry a little between each layer, and then left it to dry for awhile.

As it dried, it looked absolutely terrible. It seemed like the mod podge was drying white over the paint and somehow, bumps appeared in the paper all over the place. I was thinking I’d have to trash my project and post about my total failure of a Pinterest challenge. But, somehow, the next morning, the paper looked perfectly flat and the mod podge dried clear, even on the paint. Woohoo! So, if you’re doing this project and it looks awful, take heart – it still might turn out okay!

craft ideas, a homemade gift

I’m pretty excited about how this turned out! I feel like I still see a cookie sheet when I look at it, but the colors are bright and fun, and hopefully I’ll get over it’s cookie sheet shape once it’s all set up in my kitchen.

You could drill holes in the top before you paint and then hang it by a ribbon (like this one), but I had an extra plate stand on hand, so am just using that. I’m going to use the leftover paper to make little coordinating magnets, but ran out of time for now.

craft ideas, a homemade gift

Mod podge is officially my favorite craft supply. There are so many fun things to do with it! What’s your favorite mod podge project? Tried anything on Pinterest lately? I’d love some more inspiration!

I’m thinking I’ll make another couple as Christmas gifts and you’ll be sure to see this gift idea in my “Give Great Gifts on A Barebones Budget” series soon!

To check out some other Pinterest-inspired fun, you can visit: Young House Love, Bower Power, Our Fifth House, and Ugly Duckling House. I’m also linking up to Homemade Ginger, Life as Mom, Feature Yourself Friday, At the Picket Fence, and Sundae Scoop.

Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget

christmas gift ideasWhenever I read lists of gift ideas in magazines, I walk away feeling discouraged.  Almost anything the glossy pages suggest for under $30 is more like a stocking stuffer and seems like it would end up in the donate pile by year’s end (and, since Christmas is only a week before year’s end, you know it’s gotta be junk). Besides, if I had $100+ to spend on each of my family members, I don’t feel like I’d need to read lists of gift ideas.  If I had $100 to spend per family member, I’d be abounding in ideas.  Hey, I could even give gift cards and not seem cheap!

But, in the real world, with our real budget, $100 per person gifts don’t work. With 20 “immediately extended” family members to buy gifts for – plus the 4 of us who live in this house – that type of Christmas spending doesn’t line up with our budget. Instead, we budget $20 per family member (with a little extra for our mom’s stockings) and challenge ourselves to find the very best gifts we can for each of our beloved family members.  As weird as it may sound, I love the challenge.  Our low budget actually makes Christmas shopping more fun for me.  Don’t get me wrong – a high budget sounds fun too – but I’m working with what I actually have to give.

Whether it’s finding good deals, crafting something special, or packaging the gift in a unique way, I love the challenge of figuring out how to give meaningful, useful, and valuable gifts… even when I only have $20 to spend.

Since I know this short-on-cash, high-on-gifts-to-give dilemma is a common one, I thought it’d be fun to run a series here at over the next couple months — Give Great Gifts on a Bare-Bones Budget.  

I’ve already started working on some of the posts and I’m super excited about the series.  These lists are what I wish I’d found years ago when I first googled “how to give a frugal gift people actually like.”

I’ve been informally researching for these lists for years and have asked friends and family for input.  I think this series will be a great resource for anyone who is hoping to give meaningful and useful gifts without breaking the bank.

Each week, I’ll post ideas for a specific “type” of person on your gift list, including some of those people who are hardest to shop for.  Most of the ideas will be under $20 per person with a few “splurges” occasionally thrown in.

So far, my list includes:

Please let me know if there are any categories of gifts you’d like me to write about and I’ll do my best! And, make sure to subscribe so you can join us for all the fun.

I’m looking forward to sharing ideas for how to give great gifts to the people you love, even on a bare-bones budget!

Repurposing a Crib Bumper

easy sewing projects
Has anyone else ever wondered when you’re supposed to use the crib bumper that’s included in all the cute coordinated crib bedding sets?  Some people warn against using a crib bumper with newborns because babies can get entangled in it.  Others recommend avoiding the crib bumpers with older babies because they can use the bumpers to lift themselves higher in their escape attempts.  After I got my super cute bedding set, I realized there’s not really a time that is “safe” to use the bumper.  But, I really liked the look of the pink and brown matching set and especially love tulips, so wanted to find something to use it on.

When Beach Baby was born, I came up with a great solution.  I repurposed the crib bumper to serve as a teething bumper along the top of the crib rail. We’d tried other store-bought brands of crib teething guards and they didn’t work at all.  Our crib is heavily marked up from Beach Girl’s teething days and I was hoping we could avoid any further damage with Beach Baby… and I got a cute crib accessory to boot!

This is seriously the easiest sewing project possible (no button holes required!).  The crib bumper comes ready to repurpose (it even already has straps to tie it onto the crib!) and has worked perfectly for us for over a year now.

Here’s how to make your own crib bumper turned teething guard:

First, hold the crib bumper up to the top railing of the crib to get the proper length.  I kept one of the finished ends intact so that I could sew as little as possible and use the straps that were already there.

easy sewing projects

Cut the crib bumper to the right length, cutting an extra amount of batting out from the inside so that it doesn’t get bulky at the end.

easy sewing projectsIf there aren’t straps at the unfinished end of your teething bumper, cut straps off from an unused part of the crib bumper.  Then, sew them onto the very end of your new teething bumper with the top pieces of the straps inside the crib bumper.

Fold the ends in so they look finished and then stitch up the side. This doesn’t need to look very pretty because it will be flush up against the crib post.

Tie your new crib teething rail on tightly and you’re done!easy sewing projects

I still have 2/3 of the crib bumper left; any ideas for how to use the rest of it?

Planning for Mom’s Sick Days

mom's sick days

Remember sick days as a kid? I got to stay home from school, sleep when I wanted and watch TV when I wanted… All while my parents brought me food and drinks whenever I wanted. My first sick day as a mom felt like a rude awakening — What do you mean I have to get out of bed and keep doing almost everything I normally do even though I’m sick?

I spent almost all of last weekend lying on the couch or in bed, sick.  While being sick was miserable, taking sick days was fabulous.  I think this is the first time since becoming a mom that I’ve been sick and able to really rest. This time, I didn’t have a baby who was still nursing around the clock and Beach Dad was able to be home the whole time. It was wonderful to get some time off and to be brought all my food, drinks, and medicines.

As moms, it’s so hard to actually take sick days.  Babies still need to nurse, diapers still need to be changed, children still need to eat, and rides still need to be given.  Often, we can push and push through our sicknesses for so long that we make ourselves even sicker or just deal with that lingering sore throat for weeks on end when we probably could have just rested for a day or two and kicked it.

Even though we can rarely take a day completely off for sickness, we can make our sick days much easier for ourselves with a little planning.  While I got sick too early in the season to have prepared this time, last weekend was a good reminder of why I normally try to plan for sick days.  And now, I’m certainly inspired to do some prep work for our sick days that are sure to come later in the season!

Here are my tips for planning ahead for those inevitable sick days:

  • Buy medicines.  Heading to the pharmacy while I’m sick is one of my very least favorite things.  Check your medicine cabinet and make sure that you’re well-stocked with cough medicine, cough drops, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, saline spray, cold medicine, nausea medicine, and whatever else you may need.  Make sure you have medicines for everyone in your family. While you’re at it, consider stocking up on kleenex too!

[If you live near a Rite Aid, they have awesome deals on more natural/homeopathic medicines for 2 weeks around this time of year.  These medicines are generally safe for pregnant/nursing moms and I’ve found them to be surprisingly effective. You can get a number of medicines, cough drops, and more nearly free with their rewards program.  I’ll post on my Facebook page when they’re on sale.  Or, if you see the sales starting, please let us all know too!]

  • Stock your pantry. Make sure you have ginger ale, gatorade, and crackers on hand.  Grab some easy food for your kids too.  You won’t want to be shopping while you’re sick!
  • Freeze some soup.  When Beach Girl was a month old, I got a terrible stomach bug and one of my friends brought me soup from her freezer that she keeps on hand for when she gets sick.  I thought it was a brilliant idea and one of the most wonderful things anyone has ever done for me. Since then, I try to make soup and freeze it every Fall, just in case, and it’s been a huge blessing when I’ve gotten sick.  I’ll post my favorite chicken soup recipe soon.  And, if you want to freeze some extra, you’ll also have the chance to make a sick mom’s day later on this season!
  • Set aside a few toys.  While TV is a totally suitable option for sick days, I’d like to buy myself as much time lying on the couch as possible, so am planning to also have some toys in reserve that I can pull out as a special treat for my kids when mom’s sick.  I’m going to grab a few of their toys that they haven’t played with in awhile and box them up in my closet for sick days, but I also have a few ideas for sick day activities that they can easily do while I’m resting nearby.  Some of my favorites include: musical instruments, the game with the wipes boxactivity bags, and some of the tips for how to entertain a toddler while nursing a baby.

So, now that you’re prepped for the bug your kids are going to bring home from a play date in a few weeks, here’s one last tip (which I’m saying to myself as much as to anyone else!): When you start getting that “oh no, I’m going to be sick tomorrow” feeling, REST as much as possible. Ignore everything that doesn’t absolutely have to get done and give yourself a break. The world won’t end if you don’t do the laundry this week and your kids will be fine even if they watch an extra hour or two (…or three) of TV today. Plus, if you’ve planned ahead, you’ve got shopping, dinner, and entertainment covered! Which, actually, is probably more than I can say for myself on a healthy day…

Do you have any ideas for planning ahead for mom’s sick days?

Homemade Activity Bags… and a sneak peek!

With 3 months left until Christmas, it might sound pretty crazy to start thinking about Christmas presents already. But, especially with my family’s low gift-giving budget and high number of gifts to give, I like to start planning for Christmas as early as possible.

With that in mind, I’m excited to announce a series I’ll be starting at at the beginning of October — Give Great Gifts on a Barebones Budget. Check back next week or subscribe to find out more details, but if you’re looking to give the people you love meaningful and useful gifts without breaking the bank, then this series is for you.

For now, I’m going to share one of my favorite homemade gift ideas for children — activity bags.

activity bags

If you’re not familiar with activity bags, the idea is that each bag provides everything you need for a child to complete a certain activity. Depending on the ages of children and contents of the bags, these “busy bags” can be great ways to entertain (and educate) children when mom is sick, driving, or busy teaching other children.

I made my first activity bags with my MOPS group a couple years ago and Beach Girl has had hours and hours of fun with her assorted bags. We’ve also had fun making activity bags together for her to give her friends or cousins as birthday and Christmas gifts.

When I make these activity bags, I use Ziplock bags with the zipper closure (so younger children can open and close them easily) and usually stick a piece of cardstock in the bag to help give it some structure. Before filling the bag, I write the name and any instructions on the outside of the bag. As I’m sure you’re aware, you shouldn’t leave your children alone with these bags because they’re a suffocation hazard and some of the contents are chokable.

These are 5 of our favorite activity bags that would make great gifts, all of them using supplies you probably have on hand or can buy at the Dollar Tree:

Paperclips and Straws:

activity bags

  •  about 15 paperclips, opened up so they have two separate loops, as pictured above.
  •  about 25 straws

To link the paperclips and straws together, insert one loop of a paperclip into one end of a straw. Link them up to form various shapes.

Yarn and Sandpaper:

activity bags

  • Sheets of sandpaper
  • Yarn, cut to various lengths

Use the yarn to make shapes and designs on the sandpaper. The sandpaper holds the yarn in place, making this a great activity for the car or a restaurant!

Paper and Clips:

activity bags

  • 6 differently colored pieces of paper, cut into small rectangles.
  • 36 paperclips – 6 of each color to match the paper rectangles.

Laminate the pieces of colored paper if possible (you can use clear contact paper or DIY laminating sheets for this). To do the activity, lay out the colored rectangles and sort the paperclips according to color. Clip the paperclips onto the rectangles. (Honestly, when we made this one at MOPS, it sounded pretty boring to me, but this has been one of Beach Girl’s favorites. She loves getting to clip on the paper clips!)

Foam Stickers:

activity bags

  • Half sheets of paper
  • Foam stickers

Something about foam stickers makes sticker time even more fun! I found foam shapes with sticky backs at the Dollar Tree, but if you can’t find that, just include regular foam shapes and a glue stick.

Tissue Collage:

activity bags

  • Tissue paper in assorted colors, cut into approximately 2-inch squares
  • Construction paper
  • Wax paper
  • Glue stick

Glue the tissue paper onto construction paper or wax paper to make a colorful collage. The wax paper collages look cool hanging in a window.


I hope y’all have fun making these bags! Do you have any ideas for activity bags or other homemade gift ideas for children?

This post is linked up to Simple Kids, Hip Homeschool, A Round Tuit, Life as Mom, The Shabby NestNo Time for Flashcards, & I Heart Naptime.

Make sure to subscribe or check back next week so you don’t miss out on how to Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget!

Update: You can check out my series here – Give Great Gifts on a Bare-Bones Budget.

Adventures in Haircutting

Haircuts for Men
When I was in high school, my friend Braeden and I were hanging out one night and decided that I should cut her hair. I had never cut hair before, but I was sure I could do it and she was kind enough to believe in me and to say she didn’t care if I messed it up.

I told her “my mom cuts my brother’s hair with this razor thing and she just runs it over his hair and it cuts to the exact length she wants it to be! Let’s try that!”

So, I went and got “the razor thing” (which wasn’t even hair clippers, by the way. It was a mustache trimmer!) and turned it on. I said, “Okay, wait, first let me try it on my hair, so if I mess it up, it’s on myself.” At the time, my hair went almost all the way down my back. I grabbed a piece of hair from near my neck and held it up to the razor. Suddenly, that piece of hair went to just above my chin.

Oops! It doesn’t trim exactly where you want it. It trims exactly where you put it! (hello, ditziest moment of my life!)

Side note: That piece of hair was not actually from near my neck. It was from near my face, but my hair was wet, so I couldn’t tell. And for the next 2 months, I had an awkward, super short piece of hair flying off the side of my face every time I wore a ponytail.

Somehow, Braeden still decided to let me cut her hair, seriously assuring me she didn’t care at all. (Braeden was pretty awesome. She also pierced her own belly button. Without numbing it. She apparently didn’t care about quality or hygiene; she just wanted what she wanted when she wanted it.)

Anyway, I cut her hair and did a pretty good job (at least better than you would have expected, given my rough start!). She said she got a lot of compliments and her sister supposedly wanted me to cut her hair too.

I’ve been asking Beach Dad to let me cut his hair since we got married. “Really! I can do it! I learned how the razor works on my own hair! You’re totally good. Nothing to worry about. And, we can save money!”

But, for some reason, he hasn’t let me. Something about work and how he can’t go to it with a crazy haircut.

As if I would give him a crazy haircut…

A couple months ago, though, I somehow convinced him. I said “It’s not like you’ve never had a bad haircut before. And you paid for those! You give strangers the chance to mess up your hair and pay for it. Why not give your wife the chance to mess up your hair and I’ll do it free!”

I figured it’d take me no more than 3 times of totally messing it up to figure it out to where I could do it well enough. And, I promised him he could get it fixed professionally if it didn’t go well. My math on that was if you figure $16 for a haircut, times 3 haircuts to be fixed (that he would’ve gotten anyway, might I add), plus $25 for the clippers… $73 gamble for me to figure out how to cut hair and then a lifetime of savings.

We bought the clippers (this Wahl Chrome Pro 24-Piece Haircut Kit), I watched some YouTube videos, and we did it!

Here’s a before and after (he hadn’t gotten a haircut in 2 months!):AdventuresInHaircutting

I think it looks pretty darn good, if I say so myself. I’ve now successfully cut his hair twice and we’re fairly confident I can continue doing it from here on out. If we assume he gets his haircut for $16 every 6 weeks, over the next 10 years alone, we’ll save $1,387. And that’s only 10 years and not including any future sons we may have.

So, if you too would like to save some big bucks, you can check out the two YouTube videos I watched. I used the clippers to cut the back and sides of his hair according to this video and then cut the top of his hair with scissors as described in this video.

And, just remember: the clippers work best if you actually put them where you want the hair to be cut rather than just assuming they can read your mind.

Have you ever tried cutting hair at home? Any good stories? How about piercing your own belly button?

Just so you know, if you buy the clippers through the link above, you’ll be helping to support  As always, I only vouch for products I really love.