Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Linky Love

Still busy busy with the holidays over here (and loving it I might add). I thought I'd take a moment to share a few links:

  • Orangette has a lovely recipe for Peppermint Bark (found via Soule Mama). One hint -- plan on making a double or triple batch. These little candies disappear quickly. We did splurge and use good chocolate. I highly recommend it.
  • Homemade vanilla is quick and simple and looks pretty to boot. The only caveat here is if you make it today it will be ready for use in 8 weeks. Give only to those with patience. A recipe can be found here and a label template here. By the way Costco has a great deal on vanilla beans -- ten beans for $10.99! They were in the baking section of the store.
  • Don't forget your canine friends this holiday season! We whipped up several batches of these dog cookies. You can download a label here (just click on all sizes, download the original size and print).
  • And finally check out these great free holiday recipe templates from Shabby Princess.
I hope you are all having a grand weekend and enjoying all your holiday preparations!



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Love Thursday



Here are a few things we've been up to. Life has been busy. It's a task in and of itself not to be overwhelmed. I've yet to ship packages.
None of our handcrafted holiday parcels will arrive on time. Yet it is okay. We are okay. I've given myself permission to slow down and enjoy the process. Surely friends and family will appreciate gifts in the New Year just as much as now. Nothing, no life, no person is perfect. Certainly not me.

I'm very much looking forward to a few days of down time before the rush of the holiday. No work. No taxi service. No place to be or go. I fully intend to bake, sew, knit and craft to my heart's delight. Why, perhaps I'll even sneak in a bath, a bottle of wine and a good book -- just for good measure.

Next week the whirlwind will return; dragging my heart between work and family. But you know what? We'll get through that too. And I'll be looking forward to the next ebb that follows the flow.

I hope each and every one of you are giving yourself a break and enjoying the life you have been given.

Happy Love Thursday!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Contractractual

We're back from our respite at the coast. Back to work. Back to reality. This morning my middle daughter couldn't find her math book. We went to look in her room. The room was abominable. Really and truly.

Now two large garbage bags full of junk are ready to go to the Goodwill and two additional bags are full of actual garbage. I do not understand how this mess happens in such a short period of time. If the girls' room does not stay clean I am very seriously considering canceling Christmas. My children need more junk like they need a hole in their head.

Fortunately our Christmas plans are already humble. A few homemade gifts. A few thrifted items. I will be working on Christmas day. As such the affair will be immediate family only and will pass without much pomp and circumstance.

Ah but back to the room. The one thing I love about cleaning the girls' room is finding written treasures. Today's gem was in the form of a contract. You see middle daughter wants to visit her Grandmother over spring break. She also wants to take a friend. Now of course Little Sis wants to go with them and Big Sis is not so thrilled. So Big Sis wrote up a contract and had her five-year-old sister sign it. Granted Little may not know what she was signing her name to. Somehow I doubt it would be binding in a court of law.

Click on photo to enlarge

Given their propensity for such documents I may have to write up my own contract regarding the condition of their room.

By not cleaning my room I, the undersigned, hearby give up all rights to happiness. I will not be able to play. I will not be permitted to watch television. I understand that under no circumstance will I have a friend sleep over. I understand that messes made by me are my responsibility to clean up. Additionally I am fully aware the condition of my room is completely under my control. I am able to change my destiny by keeping said room clean. If said room is clean I will receive an allowance. I will be permitted to cohort with my peers. I will, once again, be given the right to happiness. I, and no one else, am responsible for the condition of my room. I can not blame my brother, my sister or my parents for my mess. There may be times when I have to clean up messes made by others. I understand this is an inherent part of family life. In short I will accept responsibility for myself and my actions.

Ah if only that would work!

+++++++++++++

I do have some holiday crafts I'm eager to share. Soon, soon I'll take a few photographs and get them up online.

Happy Monday!




Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our Contingency Plan


This week we intended to teach our children about food from the source; catching, dispatching *ahem* and cooking their own crabs. We bought crab pots. We bought bait. We sloshed about in the bitter wind and frigid cold. It seems, however, we are gathers by nature. Or rather we lack the genetic make-up of hunters. Despite our valiant efforts we were wholly unsuccessful at crabbing. It is not that we couldn't go in for the kill. That part would have been accomplished. No. We simply couldn't catch the buggers. Not a one.

After three days stalking these elusive arthropods we broke down. Today we enjoyed the delectable warmth of a fish market and devoured this creature who, just this morning, was plucked from his aquatic home. He was delicious. I highly recommend him splattered with lemon and dripping with butter.

As for teaching about slow food? Well the children learned that food fresh from the source is ambrosial. They also grappled with their barbaric kinglike behavior as they ripped off legs and tore into the shell. They were, however, spared the gory details of the kill. It's still a lesson worth learning if we are going to continue with our omnivorous ways. The instruction remains for another day.

++++++++

I wonder -- do you eat meat? If so do your children know from where their food comes?

Monday, December 7, 2009

A little time away ...


Hello from the Oregon Coast! We are on a little vacation. Today was girls day ... coffee, knitting and meandering on the beach. Just perfect! Have a lovely Monday all!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Frugal Friday: Advent My Way


Ahhhh. Thanksgiving is over and the holiday season has officially begun. I'm spending the day not shopping (okay - I did hit a few thrift stores but that doesn't count). Instead today has been set aside for creating.

This year my daughter requested an advent calendar and that's just what we're making. We are converting a thrifted pair of holiday pajamas into little stockings and bags. These will be numbered and hung on our Charlie Brown tree. We'll also be using some holiday boxes saved from years past.

Only here's the thing. My children don't need anything. Seriously. I refuse to bring more junk into this house. In fact I've recently been purging -- eliminating all the items my children won't clean up. There are literally bags and bags full of toys piled in the garage.

My goal for each day of advent is to go through these bags. Each child will receive a daily gift from this stock (probably things they've forgotten they own). The rest of the "junk" will be given to a good cause. If they're very well behaved my children might also receive a tasty treat or something homemade.

In this way we will have a fantastic, frugal and uncluttered holiday.

For another great advent idea check out Maya's toilet paper roll tutorial.

+++++++++++++++


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abundance



I am thankful for music. For images, art and laughter. I am thankful for sharing and those who share with me. I am thankful for open hearts. For hope. For love and family. For those who know the real me and accept me as I am. I am thankful for “all creatures great and small”; cats, dogs, chickens and fish. I am thankful for apples and oranges and their respective differences. I am thankful for friendship - both virtual and brick and mortar. I am thankful for all life’s necessities; food, shelter, clothing. I am thankful for daily hugs and that spot of light that streams through the back door in late afternoon. In short - I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!






+++++++++++

Monday, November 23, 2009

What I'm a making Monday ...

  • Booties for a baby (no not mine!) Find the tutorial here. Thanks to Soulemama for the inspiration.
  • Cubes for my niece. Who knew cubes were so easy? These cubes were born from curtains, an old sweater, a thrifted table cloth and thrifted corduroy. The smallest one has a jingle bell that, well, jingles.
  • A skull cap. This was intended for my son. Only it is fair isle. And me, I should know, what ever I knit in fair isle ends up smaller than planned. And so it seems this one was knit for a for a toddler. Fortunately I know a toddler with a punk rock father. All is well. Tutorial here.
  • Another hat. Again smaller than intended though not knit by me. This one was sewn from a sweater. My niece's head ought to be nice and warm this winter.

+++++++++++++

And on a completely different note ... every year I put together a holiday DVD. Essentially it is a slide show with accompanying music. This is the time of year I begin to contemplate my musical selection.

On my list of potentials are:

"I don't know" by Lisa Hannigan

and

"New Soul" by Yael Naim

Any suggestions? I'm always on the lookout for new music and would LOVE to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Adventures with Mr. Grinling (aka The Pothead)

Photo courtesy of BigJohnUK


As I’ve mentioned before my girls go to a Scottish Storyline School. Last night was Little’s culmination. This year the kindergarten class has been reading a book about Mr. Grinling, a Scottish lighthouse keeper.

Mr. Grinling lives in a cottage high up on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. His lighthouse resides on the rocks below. At lunchtime Mrs. Grinling makes a huge lunch for her husband and sends it down to the lighthouse in a basket on a cable. Only there's a problem. The seagulls have discovered the basket. They steal Mr. Grinling’s lunch before it arrives.

The kindergarteners have been writing letters back and forth to Mr. Grinling in an attempt to help him solve the problem with the seagulls. They came up with all kinds of ideas from covering the basket in wire to sending a cat in the basket with the lunch. None of these attempts deterred the gulls.

As it turns out Mrs. Grinling discovered the seagull solution. For two days straight she packed plain mustard sandwiches. The birds rapidly became bored with this meal and moved on to greener picnic baskets.

Mr. Grinling was soooo grateful for the kindergartner’s help that he flew in all the way from Scotland to thank the kids. The kids got to meet him at last night's culmination.

All day yesterday Little was itching with excitement. She was going to meet a real Scottish lighthouse keeper! She put on her nicest dress. We braided her hair and tied it with bows. She. Was. Ready.

On our drive to the school Little was jabbering away about Mr. Grinling (if I didn’t know better I’d say she had a little crush). I was only half-listening until middle daughter butt in to the conversation:

“I don’t get why you are so anxious to meet that guy. Don’t you know he’s a total pothead?!!”

What?

"He smokes a pipe." she continued, "He has a pipe in all the pictures. He’s a pothead!"

My mind was reeling. My nine-year-old daughter thought her sister was learning about a doobie smoking lunch mongering lighthouse keeper.

Yes, yes. This is what storyline is all about. Potheads. And lunch.

"No sissy!" I exclaimed, "Mr. Grinling is not a pothead! The pipe contains tobacco which is completely legal. Not healthy but legal."

Okay - so you also have to question whether a Scholastic Book should contain a tobacco smoker but, hey, at least it's not pot. At any rate I don't anticipate my girls taking up the pipe anytime soon; pipe smoking lighthouse keeper or not.

"Well then," Sissy asked, "how do people smoke pot?"

"Oh, I don’t know," I replied with a slow drawl while deciding how much information to reveal.

Should I act totally uninformed or should I sound like a marijuana expert? A marijuanaologist.

I settled for something in the middle.

"People typically smoke marijuana out of bongs or hand-rolled cigarettes." I stated informatively.

I managed to leave out that people smoke pot out of just about anything including pop cans and, yes, pipes.

"What?!!" Sissy exclaimed, "People smoke pot out of BOMBS?!!"

Briefly I considered leaving the conversation at that. Clearly smoking out of bombs is a dangerous endeavor. Perhaps the kids would indeed Just Say No if explosive devices were involved. But I simply couldn't leave it be.

"No Sissy, bongs. B-O-N-G-S; a device for smoking pot."

Spectacular - we've moved on to the proper spelling of drug paraphernalia. You are nothing if not a good mother.

At this point my thirteen-year-old son was laughing so hard I thought he might actually pee his pants.

"What is so funny?!!" I demanded.

"Her," he said pointing at Sissy. "Dude, everybody knows people don't smoke pot out of pipes!"

"And what I'd like know Mister," I questioned, "is how you've obtained this information?"

"Well, duh," he said, "they teach you that in health."

Now I'm not sure which disturbs me more - the fact that Sissy thought Little was studying a pot smoking lunch mongering lighthouse keeper or that in middle school the kids, apparently, are being taught the fine art of how to smoke weed.

Clearly life with kids is nothing if not interesting. Alarming and agonizing but interesting. I just hope we survive the next 15 plus years.

++++++++++++++

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Make It Monday: Homemade Memory Game


This weekend I spent a little time working on holiday gifts -- specifically a homemade memory game for Little. I was inspired by this post over at Or So She Says. The basic process involves scanning pages from vintage children's books, shrinking them and Mod Podging them onto wooden blocks. There was only one problem (well actually two problems). First, I do not own a scanner. And second, all I own is an ink jet printer (the concern being smearing of ink).

After mulling it about I had an epiphany. What is a camera if not a scanner of life? First problem solved -- I could simply photograph the illustrations. And what book did I choose? A copy of Hans Christian Anderson tales from my childhood, illustrated by Paul Durand. The stories include: The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, The Little Match Girl, The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Tin Soldier, Thumbelina and The Emperor's New Clothes.

The photographs were sized in photoshop to fit on 2 inch wood blocks. The blocks were purchased here. I also downloaded a fabric sample photo (as per the tutorial) and used that to create the background textures. Both files were saved and uploaded to Flickr. Click here to access the background textures and here to access the illustrations. You are welcome to download these files and use them for yourself. They print on a single sheet and will need to be cut to size.

To get around the bleeding ink jet the photos were sprayed with a clear top coat paint. Actually I Mod Podged the photos first (gluing only the backs) then sprayed the top. Two coats of spray were necessary as the first coat was somewhat cloudy.

Finally I sewed a quick drawstring bag and added an i-cord cord made from leftover yarn. And there you have it. Another homemade gift complete. I must admit I'm rather smitten with this project. Now I have something besides I Spy bags to make for children's gifts.

Happy Monday (a touch early I know)!

++++++++++++


Friday, November 13, 2009

Frugal Friday Tutorial: Quick and Easy Drawstring Bag


My daughter's school has town every two weeks. During town the kids get to spend "town dollars" on homemade wares. These monies are earned throughout the year by participating in various classroom jobs and by running town businesses. I love town because it teaches responsibility, financial management and mathematics. It also encourages creativity and free-thinking.

Last week my daughter and I were trying to figure out what she should make for town. Looking for ideas we began pouring through my fabric stash. Most of my fabrics are thrifted material purchased on a whim; i.e. sheets, curtains, remnants, etc.

We pulled out a canvas shower curtain and inspiration hit -- drawstring bags! Now keep in mind -- this is the outer fancy shower curtain that does not get wet. We are not using the ucky gucky interior curtain (I do prefer my sewing projects to be mold free).

The bags were super easy to make and a huge hit. Now my daughter wants one of her own to carry her knitting in. So I whipped up another quick bag and decided to make a tutorial. This project only takes about 15 minutes and is perfect for beginning sewers. The possibilities are endless -- a knitting bag, a beach bag, a grocery bag, an overnight bag. It could even be the wrapping for a holiday gift (assuming your giftee isn't likely to peek).

In my neck of the woods a thrifted curtain costs around $6.00. A single curtain will make a minimum of two bags using this method with plenty of fabric left over for other projects.


How to make a quick and easy drawstring bag from a shower curtain:


1. Find a shower curtain (or other curtain) with button holes at the top.


The top of the curtain will be the top of your bag.

2. Lay the fabric out flat and cut a rectangle to the dimensions you want. Be sure to have an even number of button holes at the top of the bag.


This particular bag was approximately 20 inches by 35 inches.

3. Carefully cut the side seam off your rectangle. Cut the seam as close to the folded edge as possible without cutting into the folded edge.


4. Cut a small piece of the seam (~ 2 inches) to use as a loop.

5. Fold the fabric in half with right sides together. Place the loop approximately 2 inches from the bottom of the bag. Pin in place.


6. Using a machine sew the side and bottom seams. Don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and end.

7. Trim seams with pinking shears to prevent fraying.

8. Turn inside out.

9. Weave a ribbon in and out of the button holes. Pull one side of the ribbon down and through the bottom loop. Knot the ribbon ends.

10. Enjoy!



+++++++++++++++++

Happy Frugal Friday!




Monday, November 9, 2009

Rocket Man


Well yesterday my laptop went kerplunk. It simply wouldn't boot up. And so today it's in the repair shop for diagnostics. I am hoping and praying for a quick and easy fix because, really, there are other things I'd rather spend my money on.

We are not computerless. We have the family unit upstairs. And yet I find myself naked; stripped to the bone. How did I become so dependent upon a piece of technology that didn't even exist twenty-years ago?

Nevertheless I am completely and irrevocably addicted. This machinery is my second brain (or my only brain depending upon who you ask). Oddly enough I was also without my laptop around this time last year. Hmmm - maybe there's a theme here. It's a message from the universe to get back to the basics as it were.

I do have things to keep myself busy ... books from the library, knitting, sewing and chanters to pipe on. Additionally my house always has laundry and dishes to be done. Should you find yourself bored I can most definitely put you to work (by the way my infinitely bored children never accept this offer to I won't take it personally should you do the same).

All of this to say that, until further notice, I will be somewhat scarce in this virtual world. In the meantime I leave you with the above photo of Rocket Man. He is my latest sewing project; a Christmas gift for my nephews (one down one to go). Forgive the juvenile paint job; I could not find a brush and had to make do with a q-tip (oh if only my stuff belonged to me and only me!).

Should you be interested in making a Rocket Man of your very own you can find the pattern here.

Here's hoping I'm back online shortly!

++++++++++++

Friday, November 6, 2009

Frugal Friday - Minor musings on money, food and crafts


Well I must say I'm somewhat disappointed in myself. Last week I bought stew meat from Costco. $17.52 worth of stew meat. Typically I'll use a portion of the meat for a meal and then freeze the rest for later. Only I didn't do that. I forgot all about it and the meat went to waste. Not only is this bad financially but also for the environment and the cow. I feel terrible.

This also left me with nothing to make for dinner. So I trudged to the store this morning for ingredients. Now there is a small roast simmering away in the crock pot. The cost wasn't bad - $12.52 cents for the roast, a couple of carrots, a couple sticks of celery and a parsnip. I already had an onion, garlic, potatoes and a bay leaf at home. The roast is stewing in beer that my husband procured from work. I comfort myself with the knowledge that this dinner coupled with the cost of the wasted meat still costs less than dinner out. I'm not sure this information would comfort the cow.

Today, as a means of financial penance, I'm sewing for the holidays. First on the agenda is this adorable rocket ship. I found some great fabric from the thrift store and am anxious to get started. I'd also like to make a couple of these headbands from my fabric scraps.

Just like last year and, it seems all years prior, finances are tight (especially when we throw money out the window!!). And I'm in need of ideas. What budget friendly things do you have planned this holiday season? I'd love to know!

++++++++++++++




Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chocolate Cherry Beer Bread


What a lucky girl am I! This morning I attended a "Hostess with the Mostess" party with a group of extremely talented ladies. The premise of the gathering was to exchange homemade gifts for giving. Honestly I was humbled to be part of this amazing group. And I made out like a bandit! My new stash includes a fused glass plate, a candle, jam, an ornament, a wall sconce, homemade caramels, a bird feeder, cloth gift bags and lavender facial mist. Oh and how can I forget the adorable knit pincushion and burlap for future crafting.

Oh and the food! I definitely need to get the recipe for that quiche dish! What a wonderful way to start the morning. All this for ten aprons. I definitely got the better end of that deal!

Along with the aprons I shared a recipe that I love to make this time of year -- Chocolate Cherry Beer Bread. The recipe is simple but takes some time (as most good bread does). And now I'd like to share the recipe with you.

For sweet breads the best beer to use is a stout or porter (I use Black Butte Porter but must give a disclaimer as this is the beer my brewer husband makes). This recipe is also easily modified to make a savory bread. Use a lighter beer, such as a pale ale, and then substitute something savory for the chocolate, cherries and nuts (think sundried tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese).

And now, without further adieu, here is the recipe:


Chocolate Cherry Beer Bread

Ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 pkg active dry yeast
12 oz porter or stout beer
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped
1/4 cup sweetened dried cherries (cranberries also work nicely)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg white
1 tsp water
2 tsbp pearl sugar

Directions:
  1. Add beer, yeast and 2 cups flour to stand mixer bowl. Stir by hand until well mixed. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.
  2. Remove mixture from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for one hour.
  3. Place bowl in stand mixer and attach dough hook.
  4. Add salt and remaining flour. Mix at low speed until dry ingredients are incorporated. Increase speed to medium and knead dough for approximately two minutes. If dough is sticky add flour 1 tsbp at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  5. Remove from mixer and place on lightly floured surface. Knead in cherries, chocolate and nuts.
  6. Coat bottom and sides of a large mixing bowl with olive oil. Place dough in bowl turning to coat all surfaces. Cover with a dishcloth* and allow to rise in a warm area one to two hours or until doubled in size.
  7. Punch down dough and let rest five minutes.
  8. Remove from bowl and form a round loaf.
  9. Place a piece of parchment paper or silpat mat on a baking sheet.
  10. Place loaf on baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise for one to two hours or until doubled in size.
  11. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  12. Lightly beat egg white and water. Brush lightly over loaf covering all exposed surfaces.
  13. Sprinkle with sugar. You may also sprinkle with additional nuts if desired.
  14. Bake for 30 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped.
  15. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking rack.
  16. Dig in and enjoy!

* Plastic wrap would probably work as well as a dishcloth. However, in my humble opinion, it's not nearly as pretty. Half the reason I bake breads is to put my dishcloths to use.

Happy Baking!

++++++++++++++++++

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Well we made it through with our ball o' yarn costume intact. Were I to make this again I'd use plaster cast material instead of paper mache. I think it would hold it's shape better and also be easier to wind yarn around. Though the casting material might be a touch heavy. The costume was shed relatively early in the evening as the arm holes were somewhat awkward. Live and learn. My husband has suggested I do a cost/benefit analysis on these projects I take on. So here you have it:

Unused exercise ball and newspaper from the neighbors: Free

Yarn from the Goodwill: Twelve dollars

Hot glue and glue gun: Eight dollars with coupon

Giving my daughter the costume she wanted for Halloween: Priceless

And now on to new projects ... after all the holidays are just around the corner!

++++++++++++

Here are some other images I'm loving from the season.

I hope you all are having a wonderful Halloween weekend!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Company in the Kitchen



Right now we're baking a batch of our new fall favorite - pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. My family can't seem to get enough of these autumn treats. I suspect this recipe will outlast the season stretching into winter and likely spring.

Often I like to be alone while cooking. It's just easier that way. No step stools. No prying hands. Less mess. But tonight I was feeling accommodating. My youngest daughter joined me for a little kitchen adventure. First she helped unload the dishwasher (and did a great job I might add. I could get used to that kind of help).

Then we baked. In the process we learned the difference between 1 cup and 1/2 cup. We did a little math (if you have one 1 cup container and one 1/2 cup container how do we get 2 1/2 cups flour?).

We also tackled spelling and committed the word C-U-P to memory.

Thanks to my daughter's astute observation I learned that nutmeg looks like a miniature coconut. We both agreed it smelled delectable when grated into the batter.

I taught her the proper function of a Silpat mat and that a small ice cream scoop was perfect for ladling out dough.

She taught me to count to twelve. And now we have 12+12+12 cookies all ready to eat.

All-in-all we had a lovely time. I do believe I ought to have company in the kitchen more often.

Tell me ... do you cook alone or does your family join you? I'd love to know!

+++++++++++++++

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Like a good cheese ...


A couple years ago I knit a pair of leg warmers for my girls to wear to dance. And no - I wasn't stuck in the 80's. These little hand knits had become popular again; especially in little girl dancing circles.

They were gifted at Christmas and then promptly set aside. What? Mom spent hours making these for me? Great! *Leg warmers tossed over shoulder like a fist full of salt*

Over the year these knits have periodically shown up around the house; dragged out of the shoe basket by the cat, tossed aside while searching for a baseball cap and strewn over a chair by our household ghost. But nobody ever wore them.

Ah well, I lamented and consoled myself with the idea of knitting for knitting's sake.

Then yesterday arrived. On Wednesdays Little has dance. Guess what she decided to wear? The leg warmers! As she put them on she asked, "Mom? Did you knit these?"

"Yes" I replied.

"Wow!" she exclaimed, "You are like the BEST KNITTER EVER!"

The moral of this story? Give anything hand knit at least two years for appropriate recognition. Like a good cheese these leg warmers were merely aging to perfection.

Little's dancing friend down the street also adored her fashion prowess. I've since been commissioned to knit another pair for Christmas (shhhh - don't tell). Hopefully those warmers won't require a two-year fermentation.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Happy Knitting and Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Join the Mat Revolution



Picture this. You've had a loooong day. You spent hours, literally hours, cleaning your children's rooms. You put your time in as a cabbie (to school, from school, to school, from school to swimming and piano and finally home). The evening is winding down and you find yourself with a free moment. Yet it's time to get dinner started. What do you do? Why sew a bathmat of course!

You see all the cool kids are doing it. The pattern came from A Handmade Home and the project was simple enough that I literally sewed and made dinner at the same time. (Keep in mind last night was taco night so the kitchen didn't require much concentration.) The top fabric is a thrifted sheet and the bottom fabric an old towel.

I was hoping to photograph this guy in his native environment. But as it turns out the light in my bathroom is quite poor. Additionally we lack dazzling photographic features such as a claw foot tub (poor poor me!). Anyway the yellow matched the yellow of our aspen trees. And yes my neighbors think I'm kookie with my cereal box, camera and bathmat. It's a small price to pay.

The stitching is perfectly imperfect which makes this mat well-suited to hold wet feet and muddy paws. I definitely see more in our future!

++++++++++++++++++

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frugal Friday - Applique and Giveaway Results!

During a thrifting expedition last spring I found the perfect fall/winter coat. You see my previous jacket had seen better days. That garment had been purchased on sale for thirty dollars and lasted about six years. So five dollars a year to stay warm -- not a bad deal. Yet I was still hoping to pay less for my next purchase.

Then I found it. The clouds parted overhead, a chorus of cherubs sang aaaaaAAAAA and a single beam of light shone down upon it; a brand new LL Bean coat in the perfect shade of green. Brand new! Lime green! My size! And a mere twelve dollars to boot. Life was splendid. Feeling chosen and loved by the universe I brought the coat home and modeled it for my family. I was thrifty! I was fashionable (I know - a stretch but go with me here)! Life was good!

The next day middle daughter borrowed the jacket without asking. What happened after that will remain a family mystery but between my daughter and my son they managed to mangle the coat with a scooter. The fabric was torn and appeared beyond repair. I was no longer chosen. I became the child who lost her balloon at the fair. It was floating floating floating away and completely out of reach. My coat! You see this jacket was more valuable because it was thrifted. I couldn't simply go out and replace it. And now it had been maimed.

I did try to repair it. My sewing merely caused a hideous pucker in the back. I wiped a single tear from my cheek and pulled myself up by the bootstraps. After all it was just a jacket. Just a material possession. No love lost. Not really. I hung it in the back of the closet and got on with my life.

Then this fall I discovered applique. Where have I been?!! While making a designs for t-shirts I came up with an idea. A wonderful awful idea. I could applique the back of the jacket. That is just what I did. And you know what? It worked.


Now I have a perfect coat like no other and my children get to live another day.

+++++++++++++

The applique fabric has had quite a life. It used to be a thrifted curtain. That curtain lives on as a book bag, an i spy bag, a t-shirt design and now as a jacket.

My frugal tips for the day? Use what you have and learn to applique!

+++++++++++++

And now to the giveaway! The winner, by random number generator, is Erin!

Erin - send your shipping info to Shalet@mac.com and I'll get your book and apron in the mail asap.

++++++++++++++

Happy Frugal Friday all!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bow Chicka Wow Wow!


This morning my kindergartener and I were working on the alphabet. Then I remembered this post by Angry Chicken. We decided to make a handwriting worksheet.

"What," I asked my daughter, "do you want to learn to write?"

Here is the result:




Whatever works, right?

+++++++++++++++++

Here's a link to make your own worksheet. Have fun!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recipe for a rainy afternoon

1) Make a cup of tea

2) Pull a loaf of Farmhouse White from the fridge

3) Cut a couple of slices of rugged white cheddar cheese (conveniently found at CostCo)

4) Slice a homegrown tomato

5) Layer the cheese and tomatoes on the bread

6) Sprinkle tomatoes with a dab of kosher salt

7) Microwave for 40 seconds to get the cheese melting

8) Grill on cast iron skillet with a touch of olive oil or butter until the bread is toasty brown.

9) Enjoy!

10) Be prepared to repeat as seconds and thirds will be requested.


+++++++++++++++

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Frugal Friday - It's baack! (And a giveaway)


Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know I'm not prone to do reviews.  But, though Frugal Friday has fallen a bit by the wayside, I am frugal.  Because of my frugal blogging I was invited review the book "Once a Month Cooking; Family Favorites."  Of course I said yes!  
You see, I love to cook (not so much to clean the subsequent mess, hmmm - I wonder where my daughter gets it?!!).  Ah, but I'm already off track.  Yes I love to cook.  And when I'm home we typically eat well.  But the problem lies with my career.  Several nights a month I'm required to be at work during dinnertime (and beyond).  

Now my husband can cook but is not so inclined.  As a result if there isn't food readily available he'll go out which is a definite budget buster.  So I try to crock pot or have leftovers for nights that I am working.  But, truth be told, I'm bored with our repertoire and we need to mix it up a bit.  This is where the "Once a Month Cooking" comes in.  

The book is organized into several different monthly cycles.  It provides a shopping list and prep list for each month (the idea being that one day is set aside for most of the prep work and the ingredients are frozen until use).  Now I don't see myself making an entire month's worth of meals ... I like to cook too much for that.  But I do see myself making select meals to freeze for a later date.  It sure beats frozen pizza or TV dinners (do they make TV dinners anymore?).  

The first recipe I tried was Ham and Winter Vegetable Pot Pie from the gourmet cycle.  I've never made pot pie before though I can now say I will definitely make it again.  The day after I made the pie my husband called me at work to rave about how good it was.  I mean seriously rave - about leftovers.  Now I made this pie fresh and didn't freeze it though I suspect it will be just as good after being frozen. The only thing I'd do differently would be to make individual pies instead of a casserole.  

The second recipe was crock-pot country style ribs.  I would have liked this recipe to have a bit more flavor but must admit I improvised (weak chicken stock instead of beef stock and apples instead of green peppers).  Thus the diminishment in flavor is likely my own fault.  Don't get me wrong - it was still good, just not as good as I'd like.  Next time, perhaps, I'll stick to the recipe. 

As winter approaches I am looking forward to trying more meals from this book.  I really like the idea of having fresh home-prepared food in the freezer for those nights when cooking is just too much.  

And now to the giveaway!  For one lucky reader I'm giving away a copy of this book. But, in the spirit of the kitchen, I'm throwing in a handmade apron to boot!   

To win leave a comment by Thursday October 15th at 8:00 pm.  I'll announce the winner next Friday. 

Happy cooking and happy Frugal Friday!
++++++++++++++++++
PS - here is a link to get a free week cooking cycle!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Love Thursday Yet Again.


Well here is Thursday yet again. Time to list all the things I love. Yet I'm not feeling it. I just don't feel all mushy and gooshy and warm and happy. In fact I'm rather blah. It's nothing major - just the ups and downs of life and the ups and downs of parenthood.

But, mood notwithstanding, I am here. Why? Because this exercise is about appreciation. It's about finding beauty despite circumstance. And really my circumstances are quite good.

So, without further adieu, here are the things I'm loving today:

  1. The description of the Simpson's on our cable box: "Matt Groening's subversive animated satire." Dude! Who wouldn't want to be that guy?!!
  2. Breakfast for dinner (Huevos Rancheros made with farm backyard fresh eggs).
  3. Homemade dog biscuits made by middle daughter (minus the mess in the kitchen).
  4. Another apron sewn for the holiday gift exchange (only six left to go).
  5. One more night of real sleep before work.
  6. The gigantic mess ball of paper mache drying in my living room (hopefully a future Halloween costume).
  7. Convincing my son to serve dinner (including teaching him how to cut into an avocado).

And I have a question for you ... what are you loving today?

++++++++++++++++++

Happy Love Thursday!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Winter Already?!!


This weekend autumn zipped right on past and winter barged in. We had our first heavy snow. The trees hadn't even turned or lost their leaves. As a result branches were down everywhere and our power was out for several hours -- before we had our coffee! Our stove is gas and we have a french press but, dagnamit, the grinder required electricity. Poor us - we had to go to out for beverages (yes - Starbucks still had power). Lucky me I had a gift card so I didn't feel too guilty.

Our town was beautiful covered in snow but c'mon - I need autumn first! I haven't even put out my fall decor. Note to self: put out fall decor.

Around here life has been full. We've been mired in school, our first colds of the season, the duties of daily life and fun projects to boot.

Today middle daughter is once again home from school (viruses be gone with you!). Since I've got her captive we're going to start working on her Halloween costume. She wants to be a ball of yarn. Little intends to be a kitty chasing the yarn. Yes - I may be crazy.

I'm also busy knitting for babies already born and working away on aprons for another fun activity (three down, seven to go). And I haven't even begun to think about Christmas. Eeek!

Well I'd best get to work. Stay tuned! Later in the week I'll be back with a giveaway. Hint: It's got something to do with the kitchen ...

++++++++++++++++

Saturday, October 3, 2009


This weekend is my 20-year high school reunion. It wasn't practical for me to attend but I am there in spirit. Do you notice the class ring in the upper left hand corner? That poor piece of jewelry hasn't seen the light of day for two decades. But today it found a new niche as a lovely stitch marker. Now if I could just find a use for my letterman jacket ...

++++++++++++++

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's been a week full of projects. One birthday present. One special request. One bootie down, three to go. A hat in progress. One to go. Two and a half of ten aprons. Three loaves of bread. Thirty-six cookies. One pot pie. Ribs in the slow cooker. Fall is most definitely in full swing.

+++++++++++++++

Today my girls stayed home from school. According to them they had sore throats and upset tummies. Me? I'm not convinced they're really sick. But I let them stay home anyway. We did, however, keep middle daughter's dentist appointment.

On the way to the dentist Little discovered that, being sick, she couldn't play with friends when we got home. This sent her into a sobbing frenzy. I gripped the steering wheel and said something to the effect of "there are consequences for your actions." The five-year-old did not care for my wisdom and bawled all the louder. Finally I screamed "YOU BE QUIET NOW!!" This outburst shocked the hullabaloo into a quiet whimper.

Then we got to the dentist office. Inside was one autistic boy, one child who was not quite right and a little girl recovering from cancer. I looked at my girls with their unbrushed hair, mis-matched clothes and tear stained faces and was instantly grateful for all that they are and all that they're not.

Indeed we are quite lucky.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another question I could not answer...


Saturday night 8:15 pm.  Phone call received while at work. 

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

"I'm making brownies and you know that egg?  That big egg from Rose Scooby Doo?"

"Yes."

"Well I know why it was so big!"

"Oh yeah?  Why?"

"Because it had two yolks!  Two!  It's freaky!! Is that, you know, normal?"

"Yes.  It can be normal"

"Oh, okay.  And, um, Mom?!"

"Yes."  

"What happens to the, you know, babies?"

"You mean if the egg is fertilized?"

"Yeah.  Does one of the babies eat the other?"  

"Babe I don't think so.  Perhaps you should look it up but right now I have to get back to work."  

"Oh. Okay.  Bye!"

"Bye."

++++++++++++++++++++++

But, of course, I couldn't stand not knowing.  Here is the science behind the double-yolked egg.  

Happy Weekend All!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A letter to my children.

Dearest Children,

As of late it has become readily apparent that your father and I failed to indoctrinate you as to the proper use of several common household items. You are thus left with prodigious gaps in your education akin to the Grand Canyon. I am, therefore, composing this letter in an attempt to clarify these ghastly issues before said crevice becomes any larger. Additionally I fear you may enter someone else’s household and become increasingly bewildered if you see these aforementioned items used in a felicitous manner.

Ah where to begin ... where to begin? Shall we start from the bottom and work our way up? Most households have a substrate in their homes called a floor. This surface, which most often is wood or carpet or tile, is designated for walking and facilitates movement from room to room. If one were to clear debris from the gravity driven regions in our home you’d find we too have such a surface. The most common treatment of a floor is to keep the expanse clear from rubbish which permits an individual to ambulate with minimal effort. You may be shocked to find that not all persons climb and clamber when moving throughout their houses.

And speaking of rubbish on the floor - you may also be surprised to discover that most people do not store their clothing, neither clean nor dirty, in random piles throughout the house. You see, in 1903 Albert J. Parkhouse, an employee of Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company, invented the coat hanger. We, as a society, have taken this invention one step further and now hang a variety of clothing items upon this brilliant creation; coats to be sure but also shirts, pants, sweaters and skirts. Smaller articles of clothing are now typically stored in a piece of furniture called a dresser (this is a bureau with drawers which slide in and out). Clothing stored on hangers or in a dresser stays clean and wrinkle free. I highly recommend you join Mr. Parkhouse and give his hanger a good ol’ college try. .

Along the same vein another commodious invention is the clothes hamper. This is a vessel in which to store your dirty clothing items before their transfer to a washing facility. Hampers come in many shapes and forms from wicker to cloth to plastic. All function in a similar manner and are quite pragmatic. Many families find it is just as easy to toss their soiled clothing into a hamper as it is to toss said clothing on the floor. The contents are then contained and easily found on washing day.

There is also another household container that I wish to introduce to you. This container is called the garbage can. Believe it or not there are several of these cans throughout the house; one in the kitchen, one in each bathroom and a large vessel outside. These cans are for all of your household garbage items; paper scraps, pudding containers, banana peels and used fish tank filters. Indeed I would prefer odiferous and/or viscous items by-pass the interior containers and be immediately transferred to the larger can out of doors. Again many families find it easier to store their garbage in these canisters rather than to pry it off the floor at a later date.

And now, my dear children, I will close. This list of items is by no means all inclusive. There are other items such as hair and tooth brushes that still need to be covered. However I do not wish to overload your delicate systems with too much information in a single sitting. Please do not hesitate to ask questions if you are confused by such things as proper use of a hanger or a garbage can. I will readily assist you in your educational quest.

With all my love,

Mom

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Against my better judgement my family dragged me hiking today.  I should have been in bed, tucked under the down comforter with a contented smile on my face.  But no.  We had to take advantage of the wilderness that surrounds us.  Bah humbug.  

When we left the house the temperature was in the mid-seventies and sunny.  I glanced at my sweater and thought, nah, I don't want to drag that around!  About halfway to our destination the wind picked up.  Then the clouds rolled in.  By the time we got to the trailhead the rain had started in earnest.  Intrepid hikers that we were (the word stupid may also be suitable) we decided to brave the elements.  The actual hike wasn't bad.  We were moving and under the forest canopy. Then we got to the lake.  As we came upon the water the sky opened up and hooray we were suddenly very wet and very cold.   The boys had to fish, after all we'd come all that way.  Us girls holed up under a tree.  Fortunately I brought my knitting (doesn't everyone bring their knitting to the wilderness?) which helped to keep me from turning into an actual popsicle.    

Long story short we are now home and dry.  Another check in the "I'm happy to be home and happy to have a home" box.  But now I must go to work.  Tomorrow you will find me tucked in bed smiling contentedly - no matter what.  

++++++++++

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Heaven


“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home
and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”
– Lin Yutang

I love to travel. In fact, when I grow up, I intend to travel often. This world has so much to see and so much to do. I want to take it all in; to squeeze the earth into my head, wrap my cranium around it and never let it go.

Chicago was awe-inspiring. It was amazing to see the bright lights of the big city. To watch a crowd cheer on their home team. To sit on the steps of a museum and listen to a concert. To eat and eat and eat. And to walk and walk and walk and walk.

And yet it was also marvelous to come home. The first thing I did (even before greeting the kids) was to inspect the fruit trees and garden. The plums and peaches were ready for picking. My tomatoes had finally turned red. The chickens were laying on a regular basis. Then kids came streaming out the door, neighborhood friends in tow, and the crisp autumn air filled with laughter.

+++++++++

The next day I found myself in the kitchen. School was out. Pizza dough was rising. The boys were fishing. The girls were playing quietly. Pandora was serenading me from the computer. My hands were buried in a bowl of oats, butter, cinnamon and brown sugar when this song came on:



Indeed I was in heaven.

+++++++++

Someday soon I hope to venture out again. But for now I'm quite content to rest my weary head in this house where pet fur abounds, the laundry multiplies like rabbits and the dishes follow suit. Today there is no place I'd rather be.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Guess where we are ...


The mama and the papa are in Chicago - alone! Grams and Gramps are watching the kids. Mama is attending lectures. Papa is exploring. Yesterday we caught a Cubs game. We've had hot dogs and deep dish pizza, coffee and margaritas (the healthy diet begins next week). Our feet are sore from traipsing about town and we are in dire need of stretching. Perhaps we could find a yoga class to melt our aching muscles. But for now I must shower and get to class.

Happy Weekend All!

++++++

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The next to last day of summer ...

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.

Dalai Lama


What's best is when both are meaningful; the friends and the day. We had a wonderful day visiting with friends, picking fruit, eating ice cream, admiring fish and ducking in and out of the rain. Today was a perfect transition between seasons. Bring on football and apple pie, school and homework, crisp nights and crunchy leaves. Autumn here we come!

I hope you, too, had a wonderful and meaningful weekend!

++++++++

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Love coming in under the wire ...

Things I love today: 
++++++++

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Somethings Happening Here


"Frugality without creativity is deprivation."
~Amy Dacyczyn

This weekend the hub and I had another "talk". A money talk. Such fun. Though we've been frugal we aren't meeting our financial goals. We've been slipping up; going out to eat, buying coffee shop coffee and seeing a movie here and there. This behavior is good for the economy but not the pocket book. We have loans (I'm almost embarrassed to tell you what my education cost). Our house likely isn't worth what we owe on it. And to top it off we have desires. There are things we want that we can not afford and will never be able to afford if we don't stop piddling our money away.

Me, I want to make frugality a game. A challenge. To see how far we can go and still have a life. The hub sees it as punishment. "Why oh why are we working so hard and yet have no money. None!" It's not as if we aren't making money. We are but our income is indeed less than years past. And our money is spoken for. Dude we have three children. Of course we have no moola! Finally we agreed to give the adults a weekly allowance (yes - I said adults). The remainder of the weekend was so quiet you could hear crickets chirping.

Then Monday morning, on the prompting of a co-worker, I decided to have a garage sale. Saturday only 8 to 2. This led to an impromptu clean up of the garage. I hung our canoe all by myself!! While cleaning I found a three-ring binder that my son will need for school, as well as, an entire bottle of dish soap and a bottle brush. These are all items we needed and would have purchased in the near future. Now, even if we don't sell a single item, we are still ahead.

And things snowballed from there. The kids began sorting through their stuff. My daughter found a pair of earrings she didn't know she had. And the hub got into the game as well. Last night he cleared out his side of the closet. Not only did he unearth clothing he didn't know existed but he also discovered a renewed urge to exercise and fit back into some of his favorites.

We are spring cleaning in the fall and guess what? It's fun. There. See? Frugality can be fun!

The next big place we're hoping to save money is with our food budget. Have you ever figured out just how much you spend at the grocery store? I did. Let me just tell you I was shocked. But more about that later in the week.



For now I must take the girls to their swim lessons. After all it is the very last week of summer. I hope each and every one of you finds a treasure in your house today even if it's just a bottle of soap!

Happy Wednesday!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Final Days of Summer

"There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
~ John Adams

We've been busy savoring the final days of summer.  Morning swim lessons. Momma knitting, sewing and canning.  Waiting, waiting, waiting for eggs (c'mon already girls!).  Learning the art of applique. Giving old pillowcases new life.   Contemplating new projects. Watching butterflies and ruminating on the start of school.  

We're also working, putting new tires on both cars (ouch and double ouch) and eagerly anticipating a Momma and Papa conference/getaway to Chicago.   

We are working on both our educations - making a living and living life.  

Happy Weekend All!

++++++++

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009



This evening I find myself in a peculiar place. The kids have been dispersed. The husband is fishing. I am alone. Sort of. With me are two dogs, one cat, four chickens and a bothersome yellow fly. I have things to do. Items to list on Ebay. Dishes to unload. Laundry to be done. And yet I am perfectly content to sit here and watch the chickens have a dirt bath. To listen to neighbor's wind chime sound a deep and peaceful melody. To watch the black and white cat stalk the black and white chickens who are twice his size. To relish the evening sun flitting between the pine branches. To drink "recession buster wine" and read knitting tales from the library. This evening is, in one word, lovely. Tonight even the chain link fence is attractive. Life is good.


I hope you are also having a wonderful weekend. Here's to the beauty of the every day!

++++++++

Friday, August 21, 2009

Domesticity 101


My mother was a first generation superwoman who worked throughout my childhood. She realized early on that we, as women, can not do it all. Thus she hired a bi-weekly housecleaner and was smitten with easy prep meals such as Hamburger Helper. The invention of the microwave greatly expanded her nightly repertoire and quick, yet soggy, fish sticks with a side of peas became a staple. To this day my mother owns two microwaves and does most of her cooking with them.

I obediently followed in her footsteps and also became a working woman. Only neither my husband or myself chose careers based on income production. As a brewer and veterinarian we work hard. We get by but are far from wealthy. Accordingly I do not have a housekeeper or cook. And, oddly, I’m not fond of frozen food.

I want my children to have delicious home-cooked meals, milk and cookies after school, clean clothes in the closet and someone to help with their homework. I also want them to have a roof over their heads, indoor plumbing and some mode of transport to and fro. As such I find myself in the precarious position of being a working woman by night and a domestic goddess by day.

Only here’s the thing. After eight-years of formal schooling I am well-versed in veterinary matters. My domestic skills, however, are faulty at best. As a child I did my own laundry and was forced to pick up my room (cleaning for house cleaners ... who ever heard of such a thing!). I also took a few cooking lessons. End of story. I never truly learned cook or bake. Knitting was passe as was any mode of sewing. I was not trained to clean a floor or, according to my husband, load a dishwasher. It seems I am self-taught in all home matters.

I tend to pick and choose my domestic pursuits. I lean towards the crafty ... knitting, baking, cooking, sewing and gardening. My husband would be ecstatic if I would, say, become heavily involved in the fine art of toilet scrubbing. But alas this does not hold my interest (though I have tried my hand at plumbing). Accordingly my house sits in disarray as I feign ability.

This week in lieu of laundry and dishes and general tidiness I dabbled in canning and embroidery. I dare say I have two new hobbies to add to my cache. First I made an Apricot-Basil-Riesling Jam. You see we have an apricot tree (well really it belongs to our neighbors but I lay claim to the generous portion that falls over our fence). In years past the fruit has shamefully gone to waste. This year I decided to make jam. I loosely followed this recipe and added the basil on the advice of a friend. The thrift store had an inexpensive canning pot and I found the jars at our local market. The resulting jam was/is delicious. I may have to buy more fruit and make another batch.

As for embroidery ... I fell in love with a set of “vintage” tea towels at JoAnns. They were just begging to be embroidered. Once again the thrift store had what I needed - embroidery hoops and floss. I traced a pattern in pencil and, in honor of my soon to laying hens, fashioned a Wyandotte.

It looks like I may have a theme for Christmas care packages. Now if I could only find someone to scrub the floors ...

++++++++

Please tell my I'm not the only one struggling to "do it all". I'd love to hear how do you manage house, hobbies and all that life demands.