Back-to-school

Instant Pot Yogurt Recipe

With five boys in the house, we can go through a lot of yogurt. Unfortunately, most yogurts you find in the grocery store are either filled with sugar and other icky additives or really expensive. Spending $6 for a tub of yogurt that my kids will go through in one sitting is NOT my idea of a good time. So when I bought my Instant Pot a few years ago, I made sure to get one with a yogurt function. Can you make yogurt without an Instant Pot? Absolutely. But if I’m honest, it intimidated me for years, so I never tried it. Using the Instant Pot has made it incredibly simple, so if you’re looking for an easy button when it comes to homemade yogurt, go with this Instant Pot version!

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If you haven’t tried homemade yogurt, you are seriously MISSING OUT. There are so many reasons to love homemade yogurt vs store-bought! The most obvious, of course, is taste. There’s really no comparison – homemade is the way to go. Next, let’s talk ingredients. When you buy yogurt in the store, you aren’t in control over what you’re eating. There are so many unnecessary additives, many of which you can’t even pronounce, and flavored yogurts have an insane amount of sugar. When you make food from scratch, there’s no wondering what’s in it and you can feel confident in what you and your family are eating. We chose to make our yogurt with raw milk, since that’s what we drink in our house. But I’ve made this recipe with store-bought milk as well, and they both work great. And of course, the price is a game changer. I can make a gallon of yogurt for the price of one gallon of milk. As a mom of many, that is a MAJOR win!

I’m fairly obsessed with my Instant Pot – we use it several times a week for all kinds of meals. It takes all the guess work out of yogurt-making, which I really love. Plan to spend about an hour in the kitchen when you’re getting the yogurt started, but then you’ll walk away and let it do its job. Take note: when you are making yogurt, it is not under pressure. This means you can remove the lid at any time. I purchased a glass Instant Pot lid to use while making yogurt so that I can keep it covered in the refrigerator also.

Ingredients:

  • one gallon milk (whole milk will work – and taste – best, but you can choose whichever fat content you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt starter (store-bought yogurt made with ONLY milk and live active cultures)
    **Note: If you prefer a thicker yogurt, try using less starter. You could use as little as 2 Tablespoons of starter.

Supplies:

Recipe:

  1. Press the yogurt function button. Press adjust until it reads “boil.” Pour 1 gallon of milk into the inner pot. Boil yogurt until it reaches at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit (up to 185 degrees), checking the temperature with a digital thermometer. I whisk the milk throughout the boiling process, as I find this helps it heat up faster. Occasionally my milk doesn’t reach 180 degrees before the timer beeps. If this happens, I just re-start the boil process and it will usually reach the right temperature fairly quickly.
  2. When your milk has reached 180 degrees, remove the inner pot and place it in a cold water bath. I add ice to the water to cool it down quickly. Keep the pot in the water until the temperature has reached 110-120 degrees, whisking the milk occasionally to help it cool faster.
  3. When your milk has cooled, remove the pot from the water. Add your yogurt starter, stirring it fully into the milk.
  4. Once the starter has been thoroughly mixed into the milk, put the inner pot back into the Instant Pot. Cover it with a lid and press the yogurt function button again. Press adjust until it reads 8:00 (8 hours). I find 8 hours to be perfect for the taste we prefer. If you like a slightly more tart yogurt, try the 10 hour setting instead. The timer will begin and all you have to do now is walk away! It will beep at the end of the 8 (or 10) hours.
  5. When the timer beeps, remove the inner pot and put it in the refrigerator – COVERED – for at least 6-8 hours. I usually do this overnight, so it’s ready and waiting for us in the morning (this also helps make sure none of my kiddos accidentally dip into it before it’s ready ;) Don’t disturb the yogurt at all while it’s in the refrigerator.

When your yogurt is ready, stir it up, and add any flavorings you want. We prefer to stick with real maple syrup, raw honey, or pure vanilla extract. We also like to eat it with granola, fruit, chia seeds, hemp hearts, raw cacao powder… well, basically we add anything yummy we have in the house!

Since we try to avoid added sugars, we don’t add any sugar to our homemade yogurt. If you or your kids are used to very sweet yogurt and you need to transition to something with less sugar, start with maple syrup, vanilla, and lots of fruit. Make up some small jars adding frozen fruit and maple syrup and leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will help the flavors really mix together!

You can store your yogurt in the large inner pot with the glass lid, if you’d like. We actually purchased a second inner pot so that we can still use the Instant Pot while the yogurt is in the refrigerator, and because we use our Instant Pot so often that it’s nice to have an extra. But the pot takes up a lot of space in the fridge!

Lately I’ve been storing my yogurt in these large wide mouth mason jars, because the two jars fit a gallon of yogurt perfectly. You can also fill smaller jelly jars and flavor them individually. This is perfect for on the go, like sending them with your kids to school, quick breakfasts, or taking them to work. The flavor possibilities are really endless, so you can really go nuts!

Happy eating, friends! Enjoy. :)

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Letter/Number Practice Pack – FREE Download!

The new school year is upon us! Whether you’re homeschoolers like us or your kids go off to school, there’s so much excitement wrapped up in the new school year! The teacher in me loves getting all the new supplies and curriculum. I’m kind of an eclectic homeschooler, in that we use a mix of a few things for our curriculum. This year my boys are in fourth, second, and first. Plus I have a preschooler and the baby (oy… he’s a whole post in itself!) We’re big fans of slow learning in the early years – I don’t push them to read before they’re ready, and we don’t do formal school until at least kindergarten. Because play IS learning for littles!! But sometimes my preschooler wants to “do school” like his big brothers, and my first grader could use some review. So I created this FREE download – a letter and number practice pack for preschoolers to first graders! Print it off and add a few materials that you already have on hand to give your kiddos some fun learning activities!

There are six activities in this Practice Pack, though you could easily use the pieces to create even more!

Here are the materials you’ll need to grab from your house:

  • Egg carton
  • Cardboard tubes (we used our Young Living tubes because we have exactly 13,000 of them)
  • Old magnets (the kind that people send you in the mail with calendars, business cards, etc.) – if you don’t have any on hand, you can buy magnet strips at craft stores or online here
  • Cheerios or other small manipulatives
  • Liquid glue and/or glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Download your free  Letter and Number Practice Pack
  • Optional: cardstock or laminator

We don’t use a lot of worksheets for school in our house, but we do like hands on learning activities. When kids are learning about letters and numbers, having something they can hold in their hand helps their brains to make connections. Cheerios is a perfect choice for this! We already have them in our house (Honey Nut Cheerios is literally the number one food my kids beg for at the store!), I don’t have to worry about the baby choking on them when they fall on the floor, and cleanup is easy … it all goes right into their mouths! ;)

I made a variety of letter and number activities at varying levels. Some of them can be used more than one way depending on your little one’s needs.

Here are the different counting activities:
Have your kiddo count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the number of stars on each number card.

Draw a number card (1-20 available). Your child will place the card next to a star and fill that star with the correct number of Cheerios.

With so many kids and homeschooling them all, it’s important for me to have some learning activities they can do without a lot of direction. After I told them the instructions, they were able to do it all on their own!

Of course, your child will need to have a snack mid-activity. This is crucial to their learning. ;)

For this circle activity, your child will count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the numerals around the circle.

Place number cards in each section of the egg carton. Have your little one count out the number of Cheerios to match the numeral. Cut the egg carton in half for kiddos who are just learning numbers, so that it’s not quite so overwhelming.

Here are the activities for Letter Recognition:

This craft has a bunch of different activities you could do with it! Put your magnet strips on the backs of your cardboard tubes. Glue upper or lowercase letter cards to the front of the tubes.

Put the letter tubes onto a magnetic surface like your fridge or a white board.

Have your kiddo say the letter sound as they slide a Cheerio down the tube!

If your little one doesn’t know letter sounds, focus on identifying letters. Ask them to slide a Cheerio down a certain letter tube. This is such a fun activity – ALL my kids liked it, even my almost ten year old! Because who doesn’t love shooting Cheerios down a tube?? ;) I love that I don’t have to worry about my 11 month old getting a hold of the Cheerios as they fall, unlike a marble or some other small manipulative.

You could also print out another set of number cards and glue those onto the tubes if you want to focus on numbers. Then have them slide the correct number of Cheerios down the tubes!

Within each letter strip, have your child find the lowercase letter that matches the uppercase letter at the beginning of the row.

Whether you homeschool or not, these are easy activities to whip out on a moment’s notice with your kiddos. If your littles need a little extra help learning their letters and numbers or if you just need a few fun activities for them to do when they’re begging for some screen time, these are easy to pull out without a lot of prep. If you want your activities to last and be able to use them over and over, make sure you print or glue onto cardstock or get them laminated.

I’m not even kidding when I say that my boys would eat cereal all day if I let them. Ha! I really appreciate that Cheerios has no High Fructose Corn Syrup (one of the biggest no-no’s in our house), and I love that they’ve removed the preservative BHT from their cereals.

When I was pregnant with my youngest, oh my goodness I craved Cheerios!! Unlike my kiddos, I’m not usually much of a cereal eater, but I think I have some childhood nostalgia around Cheerios, because I love a big bowl with bananas. So yummy! :) As we get back into our homeschool groove, having quick and easy breakfast options is important to me. We can toss them in a Ziplock bag for mornings when we need to leave the house early. Plus, can I get an Amen for Family Size boxes?? A total big family necessity!

So grab your FREE DOWNLOAD of the Practice Pack, grab some Cheerios from any local retailer, and have a smooth transition into the new school year!

Download your Letter and Number Practice Pack

15 Minute Pencil or Make-Up Pouch Tutorial

With school starting again, your kiddos are probably in need of a place to keep all their school supplies. Even homeschoolers like us need a spot to stash our pencils and markers. Don’t have kids in school? This zipper pouch is perfect for make-up, your secret chocolate stash, or even carrying a couple diapers and wipes! And the best thing is that it only takes about 15 minutes to make!15 Minute Pencil or Make up Pouch

This project is so simple, all you need is a small scrap of fabric and a zipper. What size zipper? This depends on what you want to put in your pouch! If you want to put school supplies in it, make sure it’s long enough to fit your pencils. Just make-up? Use a shorter zipper!

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While you can make this with regular quilting cotton, I recommend a heavier weight fabric to give the pouch some stability. I used a home dec weight fabric (I’ve had both of these in my stash for awhile, so I’m not exactly sure what they are).

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The longer (blue/green) pouch: 12 x 14in. fabric, 11in. zipper (cut from a longer zipper)

The shorter (grey/white) pouch: 9 x 14in. fabric, 7in. zipper

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Ready to get started?

1. Cut the fabric to your desired size. Serge or zig-zag the edges to prevent fraying.

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2. If needed, cut your zipper to fit your pouch. Zig-zag a short stitch where you’d like the zipper to end.

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3. Press the short ends of the fabric over (wrong sides together).

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4. Pin one folded edge to one side of the zipper. Using your zipper foot, stitch the two together.

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5. Open the zipper and repeat with the other side.

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6. Turn the pouch inside out and fold it so the zipper is in the center.

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7. Push the zipper down a small amount. Beginning at the folded edge, zig-zag across the entire end of the pouch (making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end). Be sure to keep to the right of the metal zipper stop.

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8. Reinforce the zipper by sewing back and forth several times across the zipper.

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9. Open the zipper halfway and repeat step eight to sew the other end of the pouch closed.

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Turn the pouch right side out and fill with your favorite pens (affiliate link… because seriously, these are my favorite pens!)

Simple Pencil Bag Tutorial

How much would your kiddo love to take his or her school supplies in a custom made pencil bag? Plus, you can make this faster than you can drive to the store to buy one. ;)

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The possibilities for these pouches are endless! These would be perfect for a teacher gift, don’t you think?

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I’m going to fill one with our art supplies for when the kiddos and I go on nature walks. We can keep it with our art journals for a quick grab-and-go! And that grey one has already been claimed as my new make-up bag. ;)

DIY Pencil or Make up Pouch

What will you fill your pouches with??

Happy sewing!!

12 DIY Lunchbag patterns and tutorials (sew and no-sew!)

I’ve been sharing a few tutorials lately for DIY lunchbags, but I wanted to put together a roundup of a few more different types. So whether you want to sew or not, make something complicated or simple, insulated or not, you can make exactly what you need!

DIY Lunch Bags 12 sew and no-sew patterns and tutorials
1.  Cloth Lunch Sacks from If Only They Would Nap – tutorial includes a lined or unlined versionDSC_0697

2.  Reusable snack bags from Girl.Inspiredreusable-lunch-bags16
3.  Star Student Lunch Box pattern from Peek-a-boo Patterns (affiliate link) – these look just like store-bought lunch boxes!

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4. No-sew Leather {Paper} Lunch Bag from All the Good Girls Go to Heaven – this is perfect if you can’t or don’t want to sew.

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5. Insulated Lunch Tote from Zaaberry – this one has a zippered top and will keep those lunches cold

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6. Simple DIY Snack Bags and free lunch box notes printable! My tutorial over at Craftaholics Anonymous. A no-sew alternative to plastic bags, plus you can let them know how much you love them with a little note.

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7. Reusable Lunch Bag from CraftbudsDSC_0027-685x1024

8. Peas and Corn Lunch Box pattern by Sew Sweetness – this version sewn by Hawthorn Threads

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9. Free Lunch Bag pattern from The Long Thread

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10. Another cloth lunch sack from A Lemon Squeezy HomeDSCF0904_thumb[7]

11. Monster Snack Bags from HaftaCrafta – so adorable!

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12. And completely no-sew, Lego Lunchboxes from If Only They Would Nap – we use them for traveling, but how fun would this be to include in your kiddo’s lunch with a small bag of Legos?

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Happy back-to-school!