Baby Bib Tutorial

IMG_7165I have a new nephew!!! Precious little Sidney James was born on Monday, March 16 and we couldn’t be more excited! He is perfect in every way. The kids and I can hardly wait to hold him and see his tiny fingers and toes in person.

I had been waiting to find out if it was a boy or girl before I broke out my sewing scissors and my machine to start whipping up little gifts. I had already made him some little shirts (here’s the tutorial). Next up, I decided to make some bibs. Here’s my method.


  • 1/2 yard print fabric of your choice
  • 1/2 yard fleece fabric (fleece does a good job absorbing drool)
  • matching thread
  • one small rectangle of velcro
  • sewing scissors
  • sewing machine


  1. Select two fabrics. I used a cute ABC cotton print and a cream fleece. Place them on top of one another with the “pretty sides” facing each other.
  2. Cut them down to 13″ long x 9″ wide


3. Line up all the edges of the cut fabrics (pretty sides facing in). Pin the edges if you prefer. On what will be the neckline of the bib use a pencil or fabric marker to draw a curved line on the print fabric. You can use a cereal bowl, a small salad plate or other circular item from around your house to trace around and ensure you get a perfect curve.


4. Then begin by sewing down one of the long flat sides of the bib, using the edge of the presser foot for your seam allowance. When you get to what would be the bottom center of the bib, leave a space about two or three inches wide that is not sewn together. This will be the place where you turn the bib inside out later. Then sew up the other long flat side and up to what will become the neck enclosure.


5. Next, slowly sew along the curved line you marked for the neckline going all the way up to the other flap. Finish sewing the top of the bib enclosure flap.


6. Cut around the edge of the bib as close to the seam as you’d like, to clean up the edges. At the bottom of the bib leave some extra fabric (as much as possible) that will fold under when we sew the top seam to close up the bib. Cut out the hole that will be for the neck.


7. Turn the bib right side out. Use the tip of your scissors to push out the corners. Then iron the bib.


8. Now sew a top stitch around all edges of the front of the bib. When you reach the bottom center where you left the seam open earlier, fold the loose fabric inside the bib and sew it down with the top stitch. You can decide for yourself whether you want to sew around the neck.


9. Now it’s time to sew on the velcro. Cut a small rectangular piece of velcro. Sew the toothy part of the velcro on the front of the bib and the softer part on the back side of the bib.

Voila! Now you have a soft and tiny bib to help keep your favorite little one dry. Can’t wait to send this one along with some other goodies to my new nephew Sidney!

photo 2-8

Marvelous Maple Syrup

Every winter our family counts down the weeks until the month of March. Sure, it means the arrival of spring, but it also means fresh maple syrup! To enjoy it to its fullest and to celebrate the Ohio Maple Syrup Season, we make our annual visit to the Burton-Middlefield Pancake Breakfast at Berkshire High School which is held every Sunday in March. We’ve been attending since I moved here to Ohio in 2002 and now we bring our children. It is one of the very rare occasions that we go out to breakfast or that we eat pancakes. It was a tradition that Andy’s parents began when he was a kid. You see, this isn’t just any pancake syrup, this is 100% pure maple syrup made right here in Geauga County Ohio. A couple of weeks ago, we brought the kids out to enjoy all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage, with lots of syrup, waving a stick in the air whenever we wanted more.

After filling our bellies, we always make our way over to the Burton Log Cabin to watch them boil down fresh maple sap into syrup, but mostly so we can each get some maple sugar candy to bring home. But this year, with the cold temperatures lingering into March, the sap wasn’t flowing well yet, so we didn’t get to see them making it. We did however, get plenty of candy.

On our way out into the country during these trips I always notice the tin maple syrup buckets on the trees as we approach. I’ve been wanting to learn more about exactly how this sweet treat is transformed from sap to syrup. So this past weekend I decided to take a drive and an adventure out to an event in Middlefield Ohio at the Swine Creek Reservation of the Geauga County Park District. I wanted to help my children gain an appreciation for how nature and hard work combine to give us this special sweet treat. We learned a lot about how maple syrup has been made over the centuries and how it is created today. But before I show you how sap is turned into syrup, let’s back up a bit.


Sap, the life blood of a tree, is water containing minerals from the soil and sugar produced by the leaves. It is stored in the trunk and roots during the winter and rises in the tree in early spring. By the process of photosynthesis, the trees leaves use the sun’s energy to produce glucose, a simple sugar. In autumn this sugar is converted to starch and is stored in the sap wood during winter. As days begin to warm in late winter, the starch changes to another sugar, sucrose. Syrup can be made from the sap of several kinds of trees, but the sugar maple (the Acer Saccharum) AKA the King of the Forest, is the best in quality and most practical tree for large scale production of syrup. The increase in daytime temps during late winter cause the sap to rise stimulating the growth of buds. Pressure inside the tree is greater than the outside air pressure so any cut made in the tree will drip sap. Sap flows best when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and night time temperatures drop below freezing. Traditionally tapping in this area is done around the middle of February.


Maple syrup can successfully be made in only a small part of the entire world; around the Great Lakes and eastern Canada. It is in this area that the maple tree, geology, climate and soils combine to create this amazing process. The unpleasant springs that seem never to come allow for the warm days and cold nights so the sap can rise and fall in the tree and be collected in sufficient quantity to make maple syrup. Ohio sits in the heart of this sweet region. Maple syrup is made in 66 of Ohio’s 88 counties with the largest concentration in the northeast section of the state, right here in Geauga County.


Maple syrup is truly an all American food. The Native Americans discovered that the clear sap could add a sweetness to their food. When the first settlers arrived in New England the Native people shared their maple experience. Here’s what we learned yesterday about how the process has evolved.

In the 1700s, Woodland Indians and settlers gashed trees with stone axes. They collected sap in bark containers, heated stones in wood-burning fires and then placed the stones inside the sap to slowly turn it into sugar.



In the 1800s, pioneers sharpened wooden spiles and created holes in the trees and collected the sap in wooden buckets which they would then boil down in iron kettles over wood burning fires.

In the 1900s, farmers began to tap trees with a brace and bit and used cast metal spikes to collect sap in tin buckets. They used early evaporator pans to turn sap to syrup. Tin buckets are still used today, but are quickly being replaced by a newer method. Now, maple sugar farmers drill a hole using a power drill into the maple tree. They use plastic piping to collect the sap from each tree. The pipes are all connected together and eventually lead to one large collection tank. This method saves the farmer many hours from having to collect sap from hundreds of different buckets.

The sap then travels through piping into the Sugar House where it is reduced to syrup by being boiled in large evaporators until most of the water is removed. It is a process that takes about an hour and a half to turn sap into syrup and about 40 or 50 gallons of sap make just one gallon of pure maple syrup. You can begin to see why 100% pure maple syrup can be so pricey. But remember, it is well worth the cost because there is only one ingredient (maple sap) and it is pure, all natural, has no preservatives, no fat, no cholesterol, is low in sodium and rich in calcium, minerals and B vitamins. At the Swine Creek Reservation Sugar House we got to talk to the people making it and taste some fresh syrup straight from the evaporator.


  • It takes about 40 to 80 years for a maple tree to grow big enough to be tapped for sap collection.
  • Maple sap is only 2 to 3% sugar. Maple syrup is 66.5% sugar.
  • 900 families gather maple sap to make about 100,000 gallons of Ohio Maple Syrup each year.
  • When substituting maple syrup for cane sugar in cooking, use only three-fourths the amount of maple sugar as sugar in the recipe.

After watching the process of sap to syrup, we visited the lodge to warm up. We listened to folk music and snacked on popcorn drizzled with syrup, hot chocolate and maple syrup candy.


Pure Maple SyrupThen we returned home, determined to make our own maple sugar candies. We don’t eat much candy around here, but if I’m going to give my kids candy or splurge on a sweet treat myself, maple sugar candy is the way to go. The only ingredient is 100% pure, all natural, “clean”, maple syrup. I learned today that it is so easy to make that I plan to make it more often to keep on hand when my sweet tooth comes knocking at my door.

All you need is 2 cups of 100% pure maple syrup.

  1. Pour it into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup reaches 235 degrees (using a candy thermometer).
  2. Remove from heat. Cool to 175 degrees without stirring (about 10 minutes).
  3. Then stir the syrup rapidly for five minutes until the color turns lighter and it begins to get thicker and creamier.
  4. Pour into molds. Set aside to cool.

As I reflect on what we learned about the amazing process in which maple tree sap can be used to create nutritious, delicious maple syrup, I am once again struck by the miracle of nature. How extraordinary it is that each plant and animal on this great planet of ours was placed here to fulfill a unique purpose. And how awesome that God stocked the Earth with everything each one of his creatures needs to survive and thrive. He even provides us what we need to create a sweet, yet healthful, heavenly treat.

10 Tips to Survive a Tough Run

This week I completed my 15 mile training run for the Big Sur Marathon. It was a challenging, hilly course in windy, cold conditions. It was tough. The foot pain I experienced from my bunions (embarrassing) could have been enough to keep me from completing it. But I was able to persevere. I’m no expert. Just an average mom and an average runner, but I have learned a lot from my mistakes over the past few years. Here are some tips I keep in mind while I’m running long distances (sometimes even short ones) that help me meet my goals.

1. Be prepared. Fuel up properly. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Map out your route. Be sure your watch and your music player or phone are charged up the night before, so you’re not left in the dark for your last 5 miles or when you need it most. Make a new playlist ahead of time for back up. I’ve learned the hard way that Pandora reception is spotty. When I ran the Big Sur Relay last year I virtually listened to the same three songs on repeat for all 16 miles because I didn’t consider that Pandora wouldn’t work on the remote oceanside cliffs of California. My iTunes playlist was stuck on repeat and I didn’t want to stop to figure out how to fix it. I was preoccupied and annoyed and it kept me from doing my best and took away from my enjoyment of the beautiful scenery around me.

2. Don’t judge how good or bad your run is going to be in the first few miles. I almost always overthink things the first few miles like how my knees or my feet or my breathing feel. The number of miles ahead are daunting to think about. Around mile 4 I get into my “zone” where my faster breathing regulates and feels more normal. That’s when I feel more confident. In some ways those first miles can be the most challenging mentally. Don’t let them psych you out.

3. Split the run in half in your head (or quarters or thirds.) Tell yourself you can take a break there to pause or walk for a minute, get a good drink and have a gel. Then power through the next part.

4. Don’t think too much about your speed, especially during long runs. Just focus on getting in the miles no matter how slow they are.

5. Don’t forget to refuel. Make sure you have something to eat (a gel or energy chews) and drink every 30 minutes or every 4 miles. I carry my water and food in a belt for training and for races so I can eat and drink whenever I need to.

6. Focus on NOW, not the miles ahead. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you’re telling yourself you still have 10 miles left and you are already struggling, you will bring yourself down.

7. Think about the positives. When you are struggling with a cramp or just feeling sluggish, try to think about something that feels GOOD. For example when I feel like my breathing is off I try to focus on how good my knees feel. Soon the trouble spot subsides and I’ve gotten through another mile.

8. Don’t introduce more than one new thing per run. If you’re trying new insoles in your shoes, don’t change anything else. That way you can clearly understand whether they helped or not. Or, if they are causing discomfort or annoyance, you don’t want too many different things causing you problems. You will sabotage your run.

9. Think about how you will feel if you don’t reach your goal and how you will feel if you do. Tell yourself this, “When you stop running, the discomfort will stop too, but as soon as you do stop you will wish you had kept going to meet your goal.”

10. This is your chance. You already ran 13 out of your 15 mile goal. You can do 2 more miles. You are out here. Get it done.

These are some tips that help me meet my goals. I hope they help you too.

Please share your tips here too! 

Sharing My Strength; Running for Hunger

BS Logo BGSix weeks from today I will be running the Big Sur Marathon in Big Sur, California. Like last year, my husband and I are signed up as a two person relay team. In 2014 I completed about 16 miles for our team. But, this year, I’m planning to start the race and my goal is to keep going after I complete my “leg” and run all the way to finish.

13.1This is the point in training for a race where I begin to feel guilty and selfish for spending so much time running. This week I logged 23 miles. While I fit in most of my runs during the few hours while all three kids are at school each day, the time required for my upcoming longer runs is going to mean I need to spend more time running on the weekends. While I do feel bad sometimes setting aside my other responsibilities, I know that if I want to make the most of my race and have any chance of meeting my goal of finishing, I must put in the time. And, of course, I do spend the rest of the day catering to everyone else’s needs under my roof.


No Kid HungryBut, this past week I have been called to use my running to do more. It’s time I began putting all this time and effort to a more meaningful purpose. That’s why I have to decided to run the Big Sur Marathon in part to raise money for a cause in which I believe. So today I’m asking for your support to help end childhood hunger.

Food provides me the fuel I need to power through long training runs and helps me build up the strength I require for races, not to mention the challenges I face as the mother of three. I am lucky and blessed to have the food I need to nourish myself and my family. It’s time for me to SHARE MY STRENGTH.

It is easy to forget that many families don’t have enough food to feed their children. I open up the refrigerator door to shelves full of food and grab a snack whenever I need it. One of my hobbies is whipping up concoctions in my kitchen to share with my family and friends. I am fortunate enough to be able to fill up my grocery cart every week, sometimes twice. I compare prices, but if I choose not to put something in my cart it is usually only because I don’t like the list of ingredients. Here’s me, fortuitous enough to be picking only organic, non-GMO, cage free, all natural foods when many families are having to pick between buying milk or eggs because they can’t afford both. I am ashamed to admit that, on occasion, I have even complained about having to go to the grocery store or about how I “hate putting them away at home even more.” I’m not proud of that. It is easy to forget in my bubble in the suburbs that not everyone is so lucky.

At our house, every school day we wake up and I rush around packing the kids lunches to meet all their picky desires and then I scurry around taking breakfast orders and filling them like a short order cook. I list off all their options, “Caroline, you need to tell me what you want so we’re not late! I have eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, cantaloupe. I could make you french toast or waffles.” My kids often don’t clear their plates and as I smash their leftovers down the disposal I begin my tirade about how there are starving kids in the world who don’t have food. The kids look at me in confusion because they have never gone a day without a meal. The fact that is sometimes forgotten is that, those starving kids (millions of them) are right here in our own country.

This week I’ve been imagining what’s it must be like as a parent to not have enough food to feed your child. These moms and dads must feel tremendous guilt sending their little ones out in the world without food in their belly to nourish and energize their body and enable their mind to learn. This is not just a problem in some far off third world country, it is happening right here. It is the reality for more than 16 million families here in the United States of America.


  • More than 16 million children in America live in families who struggle to put food on the table. That’s 1 in 5!
  • Nearly 22 percent of children in the US under the age of 18 live in poverty.
  • Almost 25 percent of households in large cities with children are food insecure.
  • 9.8 million kids get free or reduced meals at school. But 10.6 million eligible children go without.
  • Hunger has a huge affect on how children perform in school. In fact 9 out of 10 teachers say having a healthy breakfast is key to academic achievement.
  • School representatives in low income neighborhoods have discovered on student home visits, that in many cases families have no food in their homes.
  • A child who doesn’t have food to eat isn’t going to perform as well in school and is, therefore, less likely to graduate from school or go on to college which will negatively impact her economic success in life.


  • Share our Strength and No Kid Hungry works to ensure that every child has access to nutritious food where she lives, learns and plays.
  • Their School Breakfast program provides children in need with a healthy breakfast at school each day helping them to thrive academically.
  • Through its Cooking Matters program, the No Kid Hungry Campaign educates and empowers low income families to stretch their food budgets so their kids get healthy meals at home too. Cooking Matters participants learn to shop strategically, make healthier food choices and they are taught how to cook nutritious, affordable meals.
  • Visit for more information.


It is time for us to SHARE OUR STRENGTH with these children who have so little.

Today I’m asking your support in my mission to help end childhood hunger in the US. When I run the Big Sur Marathon on April 26th I will be running to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign. Every $1 you give, will provide 10 children with a meal who would otherwise start their day without any food.

And for every dollar you help me raise, our family’s produce market will match it by donating the same amount in fresh fruits and vegetables to The Greater Cleveland Foodbank.




Thank you SO VERY MUCH for your support!

My Top Secret Dog Treat Recipe

It’s hard to believe it has been a whole year since we said goodbye to our dear friend Charlie and more than two years since we lost our boy Henry. Both were devoted companions who were by our sides through some of the best, most memorable years of our lives. Charlie witnessed our engagement, and both were around for our wedding, moves, and the birth of our three children. Today, in honor of them, I’m sharing my top secret dog treat recipe from back when I had my own company baking and selling all natural dog treats made with fruits and veggies from my husband’s produce market. But first, here’s a little more about the dogs who inspired these healthy homemade biscuits.

Charlie Up North

Charlie lived a long and happy life relentlessly chasing his tennis ball and was happiest when swimming in rivers, lakes and streams. Yet he also struggled through paralysis of his hind legs and having to learn how to walk again. He never fully regained his spirit. Dementia later caused his quality of life to deteriorate and eventually we had to make the very difficult choice to let him go. He was 11 years old.

Henry and ElizabethHenry’s life was full of love for both his best friend Charlie and his babies (our children). He was a gentle giant who loved to rest his head on Charlie’s back, lay next to the kids and would even sit down on a stranger’s lap. Henry was taken much too young and very quickly at only the age of 7 when his liver suddenly failed. He was gone in just one very difficult evening.

I miss them every day. I had lost pets growing up, but never those that I had raised as their mommy. Sometimes I still think I hear their little sounds in the house. Especially at night when the kids have gone to bed and everything is quiet. They are gone from this world, but our four-legged friends live on in our memories.


Charlie's MarketSome friends know that back when Elizabeth was a baby I started a company called Charlie’s Market(TM). What can I say, I’m a hopeless wannabe entrepreneur. I created recipes for dog treats using the fresh fruits and vegetables from my husband’s produce market and baked them right in my own kitchen. I started by selling them at local farmers markets and eventually began selling them to Heinen’s, a local grocery store, and other small pet supply stores and veterinarian’s offices. At the time there were few other dog food companies including fruits and vegetables in their products. Now you’ll see many of them touting the benefits of fruits and vegetables for dogs.

Orchard FruitI couldn’t keep up with the demand baking them on my own, especially while very pregnant with Caroline, so I hired an employee to handle the baking offsite. After Caroline was born, I towed her along to some events and on sales calls. I remember one event where she sat in her carseat for hours smiling and watching me sell products and then I would take breaks every now and then to go nurse her in my car. It all became overwhelming. Not to mention, the dog food industry is a very competitive and crowded market and I felt a little as though I was David fighting Goliath. I would either need to set up a commercial kitchen to handle the baking or spend day and night in my own kitchen, which I obviously couldn’t manage with a new baby and a 21-month-old. The smart and easy choice was to focus on my real job as mother of two. So that’s what I did.

Today, in honor of my friends Charlie and Henry and to keep their memory alive, I am sharing with you one of my secret recipes for my Charlie’s Market(TM) Dog Snacks made with fresh fruits and vegetables. They are quite simple to make and use all real food ingredients that are delicious and nutritious for your pets. When you make them I hope you will think of my boys. I’m certain today they are together running through the fields and swimming in the rivers of heaven.


Berry Blend1/8 cup honey

1/8 cup peanut butter (crunchy)

1/8 cup peanut oil

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup oat bran

3 cups oat flour

1 cup berry puree (1/2 cup each of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries pureed in a blender)

Combine honey, peanut butter, peanut oil and water in a small saucepan. Heat and stir until it comes to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir in the rolled oats and oat bran and pour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add in fruit or veggie puree then slowly add oat flour and mix until stiff. Roll out dough on floured surface and use cookie cutters to cut out individual biscuits. Place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes then flip and cook 5 to 10 minutes more until biscuits are crispy.

Pretty Peninsula

The past week since my last post has been full of highs and lows. I’ve experienced some really wonderful things, like my lovely trip to California with my sister and my mom for an unforgettable girls weekend to celebrate some special birthdays. And I’ve had to get through some not-so-fun things, like the stomach virus that attacked our house leaving all five of us plus my in-laws sick as dogs and landing my two girls in the emergency room. I think I’ve done enough ranting about that nasty bug on my Facebook page, so today I’d like to focus on the positive parts of the past week.

You might know by now that photography is a hobby of mine. It is my way of sharing the beauty I see in ordinary moments and showing praise and gratitude for God’s gifts. Here are some of my favorite photos I captured during our three day stay on the Palos Verdes Peninsula outside of Los Angeles. California is one of my favorite places on Earth. Here are some reasons why.

Sea Grass

Sea Grass





Point Vicente Light

Point Vicente Light


Reach for the Sky

Reach for the Sky


Pacific Pier

Pacific Pier








Seaside Slumber

Seaside Slumber


Purple Point

Purple Point


Saturday Sunrise

Saturday Sunrise

I’m certain I will always remember standing in awe of these extraordinary places, admiring the grandeur of the enormous cliffs meeting the vast ocean as far as the eye can see. From the top of these rocky overlooks it’s as if I could touch the sky. Observing God’s creatures who make their home on the shores of these waters, I was reminded of an entire other world under the sea. I felt humbled and small, in the best way possible. In wonderment, I contemplated how it all came to be.

As I reflect on the ups and downs of the past several days I recognize a lesson. It may be cliche, but it is a message I think most of us can probably use to be reminded of often. Enjoy THIS day. Soak in whatever beauty that you can find around you; a pretty landscape, the laughter of your children, the smile of your partner. You don’t know what challenges face you tomorrow. For me it was just a little stomach virus this week. For others and at other times in my life there will certainly be other much bigger hurdles. Absorb the sunshine, warmth, happiness and love today, live it to the fullest and then hold it in your heart (and maybe take a picture like I do). Then, in times of trouble, uncork that love and happiness when you need it most and share it with others. Maybe even take a second to remember that, whatever your struggle, no matter your problem, there is most likely someone else out there on this vast planet battling something even worse. Even though we don’t always understand why or how, God has a plan.