Friday, January 29, 2010

TGIF!

It has not been a happy Friday, but I'm glad it is Friday.  I have been the victim of a gallbladder attack (or at least, that's what the symptoms point to).  I made at trip to the doctor and spent the rest of the day immobilized by some pretty nasty pain...and this from a woman who had two kids with no pain medication!  So, not much today, but hopefully I'll be back soon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bilibo

Have you seen a bilibo yet?  It's an open-ended toy developed in Switzerland.  Miss M's arrived today and it was an instant hit!  I let her help me open the package.  When he pulled out the bilibo, she said, "What is it, Mama?"  "It's a bilibo.  Why don't you sit in it?"  That's all it took for her to get started.  She quickly figured out several uses for her new toy.

"Rocking-dumper"



Turtle shell



Helmet



She also used it as a basin to swirl around a ping pong ball (a lot noisier than you'd think!), a slide, a potty ("only pretend!"), and a boat.  It's about the best $25 I've spent in a long, long time!

Little E isn't quite big enough for such active play, but he was content to stare at his little friend with eyes full of deep and expressive things to say, occasionally bursting out with "ah-goo" to emphasize the silent understanding passing between the two of them.



And that was our happy Thursday!  The dishes remain unwashed; the laundry clean, but unfolded.  Quality time was spent snuggling, playing, and laughing together.  I wouldn't change a thing!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Tree in Four Seasons



I have finally finished the tree plaques I've been working on (see here and here)!  Now that they're finished, I'll be packing them away until Christmas as part of the Handmade Holiday Crusade 2010.  I'll be giving them to my mom and I expect she'll hang them in her kitchen.  I don't know if she'll hang just one and change it out season by season, but I imagine she'll hang all four at once so she won't have to remember to change them.  I bought these self-adhesive saw-tooth plastic hangers to stick on the back (you can sort of see one there in the picture).  I just hope the adhesive is strong enough.  They've been sealed with glossy polyurethane spray.  Hubby would have liked them to be sprayed with matte finish, but I preferred the polyurethane to acrylic spray, and gloss was my only option.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The curtains are done

I took the plunge and made simple tie-back curtains.  They don't quite meet my ideal, but they're not bad and it definitely adds to the room's cheerfulness!


There was only so much of the print (a Jo-Ann exclusive that I bought off of Etsy), and though I'd have liked to make them quite a bit longer, I did the best I could with what I had.  I still need to make some pull-backs.  Right now I'm using a couple strands of super-neon orange yarn!  Hubby's first comment was, "Do you have any more of that green so you can make a valance to cover up the top?"  Geez...way to boost a body's confidence!  (The answer, by the way, is no. I used every inch I could squeeze out of both fabrics).  Maybe some day I'll get a decorative curtain rod and hang them straight (not tied back) on the sides of the window.  But this'll do quite nicely for now.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Monster Box game (a.k.a. beanbag toss)


The other day Miss M was tossing bouncy balls into a shoebox and it occurred to me that she "needs" a beanbag toss game.  I used the Google blog search feature and came across this tutorial.  I scrounged around in the garage for the box and used poster paint (bad idea...it falls right off wherever there is still packing tape on the box...next time I'll do like the instructions say and get some latex interior paint). I used hot glue to secure the flaps to the inside before painting, and I hot glued a couple of popsicle sticks to the backside of the triangle "ears" to give them a bit of support.



Miss M was napping when I started and when she came out, she was fascinated.  She decided where to put the eyes and as soon as they were on she said, "Now it can see us!" and promptly sat down to chat with her "monster box."  This morning I drew around the mouth and eyes with a black Sharpie.  She saw the eyelashes and said, "Is it a girl?  It's so beautiful!" and proceeded to have another conversation with the box.  She's really quite enamored of the googly eyes!  Later on she told me, "Mama, it isn't talking much.  She's kind of shy."


After breakfast I showed her how to play the game.  She's been "feeding" her box ever since, though not always from much of a distance.


The beanbags are plain unbleached muslin filled with old popcorn kernels (my grandpa grows popcorn; my dad had it for years and it tastes a bit musty when popped).  Miss M loved helping me funnel the popcorn in to the beanbags.  She ran off with them before I even had a chance to clip the excess serger thread.  Overall, I'd say it's a monstrous hit, despite the flaking paint and untrimmed threads!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The curtain dilemma

I dislike curtains.  I can never seem to find any that I like.  Mostly, I think all curtain styles look dumb.  However, the one place I can tolerate them is in kids' rooms.  Still, I'm really stuck with what I want to do curtain-wise in my kids' room.  I have two fabric choices, but it's the style that's really throwing me for a loop.  I'm leaning toward simple, traditional tie-back.



It was suggested to my by someone on Craftster to use an overextended curtain rod to give the appearance that the window is bigger than it actually is.  I think I like that idea a lot.  Still, I can't decide between a basic "invisible" curtain rod, or one with decorative ends and tabbed curtains.  If I could just make up my mind I'd whip 'em up and be done with it!

I've got a new game in the works...  The paint is drying, but I should get it finished tomorrow and then I can tell you all about it!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Color and light

Yesterday I showed you some pictures of my kids' bedroom.  Today I have a sneak preview of some changes that are taking place in that room.  (Please excuse the horrible lighting...  The overhead light went out and I didn't have time to hunt up a new light bulb since hubby wanted use of the camera!)

The addition of COLOR to the room!


The addition of LIGHT to the room!



I found the lamp at Target, eyed it several times, and finally shelled out the moolah for it.  Neither my photo nor the product photo on Target's website do it justice.

I need to get cracking on the wall hangings I designed for their room too.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A very pathetic room

I am not much good at home decorating.  Right now, my kids' room is quite dull.  It's neat and clean, but basically devoid of decor.  (Obviously these pictures were taken a while back when it was still good and green outside.)


But I think I've finally got it fixed in my head what I'd like to do in there.  There will be some colorful changes in the next few days.


 I'm excited to finally execute some ideas that have been brewing for a while.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sewing for a wedding

My 23-year-old sister is getting married in May.  She has asked me to be her matron of honor and Miss M to be the flower girl.  She has also asked me to sew her wedding dress!  That means between now and My 8th, I need to sew 1 wedding dress + muslin, 1 matron-of-honor dress + muslin, and 1 flower girl dress + muslin.  Whew!



She picked Vogue 2788 for both her gown (sleeveless, long, and fuller if possible) and mine (with sleeve and knee-length).  She and I have completely different body types!  She's long in the torso, short in the legs, and somewhat heavyset.  I'm built much more petite with a very short torso.  Still, I think this style can be flattering to both of us...if I do it right.  And that seems like a mighty big if!  I'm quite nervous about it...  It's one thing to sew cute stuff for my own kiddo, but it's another thing entirely to sew a wedding gown.  Sure, I made my own wedding dress, but I only had myself to please.  My sister is a romantic...so I know she has these grand idealistic visions of what she wants her wedding to be like.  She's one of those girls who started planning her dream wedding when she was just 5 or 6 years old.  I, on the other hand, never gave much thought to a wedding until well into my college years.  I just don't want to disappoint her, ya know?

She wants to loose some weight before the wedding, which makes sewing for her a tricky thing.  I told her I'd take her measurements the end of March...that'll give me the whole month of April to sew her dress...during which time she is forbidden to change sizes.  I, on the other hand, have long since gone back to my pre-pregnancy weight and size, so I'm not too concerned with changing between now and then.  My body doesn't fluctuate much.  All I need to do is get a properly fitting bra so I can get started on a muslin for myself.  Once mine is done, I'll do Miss M's since I doubt she'll grow much wider, even if she grows taller between now and then.

Miss M's and my dress will be made of a gorgeous rusty orange dupioni silk.  It looks much too red in the picture above.  It'll be gorgeous with her skin!  The style will mimic mine as much as possible while still looking little-girlish rather than "small adult."

I've never worked with silk before.  If you have any tips, please share!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Matchy-matchy lounge pants

This evening I whipped up a pair of lounge pants for Miss M to match her father and brother, much to her delight!



I'd make myself a pair and be ridiculously matchy, but there isn't enough fabric left.  Oh well, I have enough lounge pants for now anyway.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Layering clothes design

This idea has been brewing in my mind for a while now...simmering...taking shape and form.  I may be crafty, but I am no artist.  Nevertheless, I pulled out a piece of paper today and roughly sketched out my idea for a coordinating layered dress design.


The idea is that it could all be worn at once for warmth, or just parts at a time on warmer days.  This is particularly useful in those climes where the temps change drastically in a 12-hour period.  You can take off or put on layers as the day progresses.

Now that I have the basic idea down on paper, I will draft the patterns, pull out some fabric, and give it a try.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kitchen help

When you're three, there's only one reason to help in the kitchen.



Hubby needed more snacks for work and chocolate chip cookies always go over well with him.  But rather than spend the time to make individual cookies, I'm baking them as bars.  I haven't tried this particular recipe before, so we'll see how it turns out (they're still in the oven as I type).

Oh, incidentally, one of those nasty medical bills (for upwards of $2,000) was in error and I only ended up owing $300-some-odd for that one!  Whew!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When 40 degrees is warm

I've never been to the zoo in the snow before.  Today was forecasted to be all the way up to 40 degrees.  (It's just plain wrong to think that 40 is warm, but there you have it.)  To take advantage of the balmy weather, we took a trip to the Kansas City Zoo.

We started off riding the hand-carved wooden carousel.  Miss M's face was absolutely glowing!


Next Miss M got swallowed up by a giant green snake!  She saw this picture and said, "I look a bit worried."



Then we visited the Tropics where we saw the two-month old baby Blue Monkey.  It was so cute to see his mom holding him and carrying him around, just like a person!  I've seen baby monkeys before, but they just held on to their mom's back and weren't carried like that.  (I stole this picture from the zoo website 'cause none of mine turned out).


We trekked through the snow, slush, and mud to the tigers....meeting a gagged Buddha on the way.


Then it was time for another carousel ride and home.  We didn't get to see everything, even of the limited things that were open, but that's okay.  Know why?  Because we bought a family pass!  It's good through March 2011!  It averages out to about $8 per month for unlimited zoo access with unlimited rides on the train, trams, and carousel.  It'll only take two more visits for it to have more than paid for itself.  I'm thrilled!  Oh, and we can use it to get into the Children's Zoo in Lincoln, NE when we visit my family there...for free!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pouf!

Tunisian Crafts has some gorgeous handmade items for sale on eBay.  I have my eye on a couple of these Moroccan footstools to keep in my living room for extra seating and for putting my feet up while nursing E-boy.  They'd fit perfectly on either side of our wooden bench when not in use.


I'd order a couple, but unfortunately today's mail brought two hefty medical bills (to the tune of $4,000!) and no white Ottobre envelope.  So I won't be making any purchases until I speak to our insurance company on Monday.  I didn't pay a penny when I had Miss M, not for the prenatal care, not for the hospitalization, nothing.  I don't know why I should be saddled with such high bills this time around.  Hopefully there's just been some mistake...keeping my fingers crossed!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Secret Garden Tam


Last night I finished my very own Secret Garden tam!  Today I added the pom-pom.  It's deliciously soft and snuggly!  I've been wearing it all evening to Hubby's great amusement.


I'm certain there will be more of these in my future....maybe distant future, but still.  I'm not the fastest knitter, but this was a fairly quick and easy project.  The band is a bit loose for me, so I think I'll run some elastic thread around the inside to tighten it up a tad.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Runza: it's a meal in a bunza

My grandma, my father's mother, has a tradition.  Whenever she shares a recipe, she intentionally leaves out an ingredient.  This is a tradition passed down from her mother and  her mother's mother.  Still, sharing her runza recipe with her preteen granddaughter must fall under a slightly different category, because I'm quite certain I got it in its entirety when I copied it down years ago.


Runza's are very simply meat and cabbage wrapped up in bread dough and baked, but to many who have lived in Nebraska they are the stuff of legend.  The ultimate comfort food.  I hear the practice has been discontinued, but when I was a kid growing up, the local Runza restaurants had a deal going in the winter that whatever the temperature was at 6 am, that's how much runzas were that day.  (Of course, you had to buy a drink to get the deal).  So if it was 20 degrees out, runzas sold for $0.20.  If it was zero or below, runzas were free!

Without further ado, I present to you, the runza!

Filling ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped onions

  • 1 garlic clove

  • 2 pounds ground beef

  • 1 large head of cabbage (about 12 cups shredded)

  • 1 small can kraut juice

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • (optional) cheese of your choice

Chop onions and garlic.  Saute in a large frying  pan with a little butter or olive oil until tender.  Add ground beef along with generous amounts of salt and pepper.  Cook through and drain well.


Put browned ground beef into a large pot (I've even done it in my crockpot!).  Add cabbage and kraut juice.


When I first started making my own runzas in college, I couldn't find kraut juice, so I used a can of sauerkraut.  In fact, I started to think maybe I had the recipe wrong until I moved to Missouri and the grocery stores stock kraut juice on the shelves!  If you're in a part of the country that doesn't stock kraut juice, just substitute a can of sauerkraut.  Simmer 3-4 hours, stirring often.  (If using a crockpot, you can leave it overnight on "warm" and it works out perfectly!)  Drain and cool.

Dough ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shortening

  • 1 pkg. yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 2 cups warm water (some people use warmed milk)

  • 1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • 7-8 cups flour

Soften the yeast in the warm water.  Add the shortening to the water to soften too.  In a large bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and eggs.  Stir in yeast mixture.  Add flour one cup at a time, stirring well after each cup.  When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn out onto the counter and incorporate remaining flour by kneading.  The amount of flour depends on the size of your eggs.  When I let my bread machine do the mixing, I use large eggs and a little more than 7 1/2 cups of flour.



Knead 200 strokes until the dough is elastic and smooth.  Let rest in a covered bowl one hour or until doubled in size.  Cut off golf ball sized pieces to roll out and fill.



Most runzas I've had were oblong, but sometimes I make mine round -- usually when I have ingredient variations, like some with cheese and some without.  This time I made a few with Swiss cheese.



I made some with one spoonful of filling and some with two so there would be different sizes for different sized appetites.  Pinch the sides together over the filling.  Seal well so nothing leaks during baking.



Place on a greased cookie sheet, cover with a clean cloth, and let raise at least half an hour.  This is a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sometimes I brush the tops with a beaten egg just before putting them in the oven.  Bake the runzas in the oven 20-30 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.  Try not to eat too many!



This recipe makes about 3 dozen 3 inch runzas.  (Of course you can make them whatever size is most convenient for your family).  They freeze very well and make a great grab-and-go meal when you're in a hurry.

This is the most traditional runza recipe, but there are as many recipe variations as there are runza-eating families.  Try adding your favorite sliced or grated cheese or incorporating some sausage into the meat mixture.  The possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doggy, doggy, where's my bone?



As Miss M played in her doghouse, she kept asking for dog things -- dog food, water in a bowl, a leash.  So I took it into my head to make bone-shaped "dog biscuits" from gingerbread.



I used Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Men recipe.  The only changes I made were to use real butter instead of margarine, double the cinnamon, and halve the cloves.


They were a big hit with Miss M, probably more because of the shape than the flavor.  They were a big hit with me because of the awesome gingerbready goodness!  Mmmm!  Hubby tasted one, but he likes my applesauce gingerbread better.  I'll have to make some of that soon, it's good too!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cardboard bliss

Take one balikbayan box add a pair of scissors and five minutes of time and you'll have a very happy preschooler (and a few minutes free to work on other projects).



Throughout the course of the day it was a train tunnel, an examining table, a dog house, a bed, a store, a car, a tent, and probably a few other things I either forgot about or didn't know about.


I may have to pick up some poster paints next time I'm at Walmart for another day of amazing 3-year-old imagination.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tweedy Angora

I ran across this post on Craftster about a week ago and decided I must have a Secret Garden tam as well.  I rarely make anything for myself, so this is a big deal.  My mom gave me some yarn a while back and among the bits of icky acrylic yarn were 2 skeins of Tweedy Angora -- 60% wool, 40% angora.  They are leftovers from a sweater my mom knit before I was born!  Super soft and snuggly!  And expensive!  The faded old price tag says $9.50.  Yowzers!



I'm nearly halfway done.  I can't wait to wear it!  (Just watch, as soon as I finish it, the weather will miraculously warm up and I won't need it...guess I wouldn't really complain about that though!)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Trees without borders

I've made some progress painting my tree plaques.  That's no small task with a demanding infant and overly bouncy toddler jostling me all the time.  They aren't perfect (due to said jostling), but I'm pleased nonetheless.



I love how the colors turned out -- especially the fall leaves!  I only have one problem...  What color to paint the borders.  What color would you use?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fleece tassel cape

The other day I mentioned the fleece cape I made for Miss M.  I used Ottobre 6/2008 #22A "Little Rosy" wool cape in size 92.


It was a very quick and satisfying pattern to sew!  I will definitely be making more.



I really like the shape of the hood and how it hangs.  In face, I like the shape of the whole thing and even though size 92 is a bit big for Miss M regularly, it works well for this pattern.  She has wide shoulders for her size (just like her mama).


I used a large button and loop of ribbon for the closure, but I don't care for the way it then closes off center, so I think I'll remove the loop, put in a snap, and leave the button on the outside purely for decoration.

I have a fully lined one in mind for spring...once it's actually warm enough to go outside with just a cape for warmth.  This has been the harshest winter in my memory...and it's not over yet.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Oh snap!

I finally convinced myself to spend the money to get a snap press. There's no doubt I'll use it and get my money's worth out of it.  It came today by FedEx in -1 degree weather.  The blast of cold air that hit me when I opened the door about took my breath away.



I tried it out on the ninja baby outfit I made.  The ribbon ties were coming off (I didn't use the right sort of ribbon, you know).  Doesn't it look sharp?  And it's so easy!




I can't wait to use it again!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A tree for every season



Can you believe I started these tree plaques last January?  I finally decided to whip up another batch of salt dough and finish them.  The summer and winter trees were already done, but I needed to make the spring and fall trees.  They will be a gift for my mom for Christmas this year. (Yes, I'm starting early!)  Once they are completely dry, I'll paint them and seal them with several coats of polyurethane spray.  I'm hoping the paint will help distinguish between seasons more fully (right now spring and summer seem a bit ambiguous to me).  I'm also entering them in the 2010 Holiday Handmade Crusade.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Instant gratification sewing

As much as I enjoy elaborate sewing projects that take a good bit of time to finish, I love projects that deliver instant gratification.  Last week I made lounge pants for hubby and a cape for Miss M from some polar fleece I got at JoAnn's on Black Friday.  Today I used some of the same fleece to whip up a pair of pants for little E-man.  I haven't been able to take pictures of the lounge pants or cape yet, but I promise I will eventually.  You can see matchy-matchy pants for all three of them here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Behavior chart

Today I made up a behavior chart of sorts for Miss M.  It's not so much the specific line items I'm concerned about as it is a wish for her to learn to think about and modify her own behavior.  (Though I cannot wait for her to sleep in her own bed!)  I know she's only three, but she's very intelligent.  Oftentimes I can see it on her face as she mentally weighs her options -- to do what is right or to misbehave and do what she wants instead.  Sadly, she usually chooses to do what she wants.  I'm hoping the stickers will be incentive enough for her to become aware of her choices.  That and the accountability it affords should help relieve me of having to constantly be on her case all the time.



Oh, and I promised her that when she gets two charts completely filled (that is, two weeks), we'll go to the zoo, or World's of Fun, or the children's museum, or something.

Tonight at the dinner table, Miss M asked me if Jesus is in her heart.  For some reason, I it's very difficult for me to find words to express the simple message of the gospel.  I think it is because Christ's work on the cross is so profound to me, so central to my existence, so near and dear to my heart that I fear any words I choose will be inadequate or even detrimental in the understanding of its simplicity.  I am so anxious for Miss M to give herself over to Christ as fully as I did at age 4, so she can grow up as a "good Christian girl" and avoid the heartache and lostness I see in my siblings.  Of the three of us, I am the only one who never had to learn the hard way.

I know that it is the Holy Spirit that moves a heart to repentance.  I pray He may draw Miss M unto Christ and that I may please the Lord in the way that I mother my children.