Tuesday, December 27, 2011

another tuesday menu

[caramel sampling]

I feel decidedly "off" this week.  My house, cooking, and menu planning are all suffering because in addition to the usual holiday craziness, I came down with a nasty, nasty stomach flu Christmas night.  I spent all day yesterday in misery, feeling rather half-alive. I am thankful that today I've been able to eat a little bit and am hoping that no one else gets sick.  I'm pretty sure that this week's menu will be more flexible than usual, but here's the tentative plan:

T-chicken, orzo with parmesan and basil, and green beans
W-breakfast burritos, fresh fruit
Th-scalloped potatoes with ham and green beans
F-crock pot stew and fresh bread (I'd like to try the no-knead 5-minutes-a-day bread.)

What are some of your favorite ways to use leftover ham?  I have a lot. : )

Saturday, December 24, 2011

handmade Christmas 2011

I have a hard time figuring out what kind of gifts to make for Benjamin.  He doesn't love cluttery, purposeless items, he is picky about his clothes, and hobby-related items can be hard to make.  Happily for me, though, over the past few years he has added golf to his list of hobbies (music, gaming, writing, golf).  I can't build a guitar, amp, or piano, code a computer game, or plant inspired phrases in his brain, but I can make golf towels!  Perhaps the best thing about golf towels is that they'll look pretty grungy after one season of golf, so if he likes them, I can make some more next year! And the next, and the next, and maybe even the next. ; )

I found a tutorial (which I followed pretty exactly with the exception of the corner pocket which I left out), gathered supplies, and after less than an hour of sewing, I had two terry-cloth-and-corduroy golf towels.  I even installed grommets in one of the corners of each towel, which was a first for me.  They look nice, and I hope he'll enjoy using them next summer!

Friday, December 23, 2011

handmade Christmas 2011

As one of my friends said: "Having a little girl is everything it's cracked up to be."  It's true.  Having a little girl is so much fun.  I have so many pent up girly projects fermenting in my brain that I had an exceptionally difficult time deciding what to make for my little Sweet Pea for Christmas.

After much contemplation, I decided to make a little doll.  One that (just for fun) would coordinate with her nursery nook and red knit cap girl art.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed with how she turned out and almost made a second one.  However, upon further consideration, I decided that she's going to get drooled and chewed on and that peace (as in not cramming my schedule with unnecessary tasks) was more important than perfection.  She did turn out pretty cute, and I don't regret my decision.

I also made a little dolly blanket to go with her.  I used some of the last nursery-nook fabric scraps and the red fabric I had left over from the dolly to make a very simple top which I embelished with coordinating ribbon, rick-rack, and fancy machine stitching.  For some inexplicable reason I get a faint Scandinavian vibe from it.

The back of the blanket is pale, buttery yellow flannel so that the dollies who use it will be extra warm and comfortable.

It's a bit of a gift for her to grow into, but then, at four months old, most gifts won't be fully appreciated for a while.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

handmade Christmas 2011

The boys' final handmade Christmas gifts this year are little backpacks for toting their treasures.  (It's so nice that they're at a stage where I can make them the same thing, and they'll both enjoy it!)  These little bags are the happy merging of various ideas: the road trip backpack pillow, cargo pants upcycled into a messenger bag, and the hobo sack, plus a little bit of Christina flair.

Little Man's backpack is made from one leg of a pair of enormous corduroy cargo pants (See the cargo pocket?  It's so nice to have no-work-needed pockets for bags.) and a beautiful blue and brown plaid shirt.  I got the pants for  about $.050, and the shirt for about $1 at local thrift stores.

Brother's backpack is made from the second leg from the cargo pants and some red and brown plaid that I had in my stash.

I filled each of their bags with several more small gifts: a new book (Little Man is getting Walter the Baker by Eric Carle, and Brother is getting Machines at Work by Byron Barton), a blank notebook for drawings, a car pencil pouch full of twistable colored pencils, a new box of crayons, a beanie baby (regifted from my large collection of beanie babies that I collected in Jr. High and High School), a dinosaur pillow case, and something else that my mommy-brain can't remember. I know there were seven small gifts in each of their bags...  Ha. I guess I'll be as surprised as they are when we open gifts on Christmas Eve. ; )

Bags are one of my favorite things to make, so I was happy to figure out this boyish variation.  The boys will love having them for play and for more serious tasks like packing to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa's.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

handmade Christmas 2011

When I saw a tutorial for pencil pouches emblished with little car appliques complete with button wheels, I knew I wanted to make a couple for my boys for Christmas. I upcycled a corduroy shirt and a blue plaid shirt and used some red plaid, zippers, and buttons from my stash to make these cute little bags.

Incidentally, in the process of making these, I discovered just how wonderful the zipper foot is!  I've been conquering sewing fears right and left this Christmas: first sewing with knits, then making a stuffed animal, and now using a zipper foot!  Hooray!

The blue and brown one is for Little Man.

And the red and brown one is for Brother.
(I accidentally put the "zoom lines" on at the front of the car
instead of the back.  Ooops.
We'll say that it's reversing quickly.) ; )

Since crayons melt horrifyingly if they're left in the hot car,
traditional colored pencils are messy to sharpen,
and markers are not something I'm willing to use
anywhere other than at the table,
I filled the pencil pouches with twistable colored pencils.
I'm eager to see how they work for us.

I think the boys will be pleased.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

tuesday menu

grilled tuna-cheese sandwiches
Christmas style for the boys

Yesterday I had a flu.  While it was short-lived (so thankful!), I didn't exactly feel like thinking about my menu planning or food in general.  So here's my slightly late menu plan for this week.

M-depends on who you ask: ramen, cereal, left over pancakes or pizza
T-chicken noodle soup and homemade rolls (if I don't run out of steam by the time I'm supposed to make them.)
W-chicken pot pie
Th-pasta with chicken red sauce
F-chili and biscuits or corn bread

What are you making this week?

handmade Christmas 2011

When people know that you sew, it seems like you end up being given fabric. I do, at least. Sometimes it's junk--itty bitty pieces that you could only use if you made miniature quilts (I don't) or hideous prints that were surely never in style. I only suffer minor qualms as I throw that stuff away. Sometimes it's something gorgeous that just takes my breath away--prints that are just my style, fabrics in exquisite colors, or flawless vintage pieces. But most of the time the fabrics I'm given are somewhere in the middle--reasonably sized pieces that have reasonable prints that can be made into something reasonably nice.

A couple of weeks ago a dear lady who is like a grandmother to me brought two bags full of fabric for me to use that her son-in-law's cousin was getting rid of. The son-in-law's cousin was a smoker, so my grandmother-friend washed all of the fabric, painstakingly ironed it, and folded it neatly for me--an act of love.

One of the pieces of fabric she brought for me was a print that I would have placed in the "reasonable" category but that my boys both placed in the breathtakingly amazing category. It was a little less than a yard of a deafeningly bright, large dinosaur print. (Can you say 90's?) Anyway, both of the boys adored it, and dragged it around the house until I threatened that it would become unusable unless they left it alone.

I knew that I had to make something out of it for both of them, but the small yardage and the large print had me stumped until my mom suggested pillow cases. Ah, ha. Yes. (My mom is pretty, brilliant, by the way.) I had just enough dinosaur fabric to make two pillowcase fronts to which I added solid navy blue backs and complimentary bands around the openings.

Little Man is still crazy about orange, so his pillow case's accent color was an orange print left over from his quilt. I can't help but feel badly for that poor decapitated brontosaurus, but there was really nothing I could do about it (yes, I tried...).

Brother's pillow case is accented with a more mellow blue band. That blue fabric actually has a nifty texture that doesn't show up very well in the photo.

I am not a huge fan of the dinosaur fabric, but I can't wait to see my boys' responses when they open these pillow cases on Christmas. Hehe...they'll be so delighted!

(If you want to make some of your own wild pillow cases or even some nice, mellow ones that match your decor, this is a good tutorial.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

newborn portraits and a family photo

Some of our friends from church have a little girl who is just five weeks younger than Sweet Pea. I'm sure that someday they'll have a great time running around together but for now they pretty much sleep and eat their way through church oblivious of each other. We mommies enjoy chatting and comparing notes, though.

I had the opportunity recently to take these friends' Christmas family photos as well as so infant portraits of their little cutie. Below are some of my favorites:

This was her Christmas dress
from one of her grandmas.

little fingers

She wouldn't smile for me,
but she did chat away sweetly.

tiny toes

This was her Christmas dress
from the other grandma.

getting sleepy...

Since most of their family is from the east
and is not accustomed to the beautiful mountains
we so often take for granted,
they wanted their family picture
to have a Montana mountain scene as a backdrop.

father and daughter

This candid is, I think, my very favorite.

Friday, December 16, 2011

handmade Christmas 2011

I had a hard time figuring out what to give to our baby niece for Christmas. An unreasonably hard time, really. I had many of ideas, but very few of them matched all of my criteria. I wanted to choose something that she'd use as well as something that wouldn't be too much of a production to make. And it couldn't be clothes because, well, at that age I find it rather pointless to sew clothes for them because they grow so quickly.

Finally I decided to buy the book A Friend For Boots by Satoshi Kitamura for her. (We have Duck is Dirty which both of our boys have both loved, and since her parents are cat lovers, I thought one about a cat would be perfect for them.) When the book arrived, I was not disappointed. It was charming. The boys enjoyed it so much that we had a hard time wrapping it and sending it away.

I wanted to make a little cat shaped dangle toy similar to the cat in the book so that it would be a cohesive gift set. I was planning to embroider the face details and use different colors of corduroy for the fur. However, reality set in, and I needed to get the Christmas packages in the mail, so I went with something simpler: a cross between a crinkly sun ray toy and a rainbow sunshine plushie, both of which I've been wanting to make for a while.

I used a variety of fabrics from my stash for lots of textures: terry cloth, seer sucker, satin, velvet, corduroy, cotton prints, and linen. It turned out pretty cute even if it is imperfect and a little wonky.

After the rush of trying to get the packages out of the door had subsided, I decided to make a couple more. (I already had my fabrics and sewing machine out, after all...) One is for Sweet Pea, and one is for a good friend whose baby is due in March.

I wish happy chewing and drooling and crinkling to all the young recipients.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ever grateful

Each month the lovely folks at Dayspring offer what they call (in)spired deals along with the opportunity for bloggers to sign up to receive a free product to review. Last month I signed up, and I received the lovely Ever Grateful Apron to review. The deadline for submitting my review was right in the middle of my vacation, and as I mentioned before, I thought that I'd have all the time in the world to blog while travelling which ended up being a false hope. So the deadline came and went, and my neglected little review languished in my drafts.

The ever grateful apron is truly beautiful. It has such fun, feminine details--scallops, ruffles, and cute prints--as well as the encouraging message "ever blessed, ever grateful" embroidered on it. Plus it's comfortable. I have enjoyed wearing it as I work in my kitchen. Though this apron was inspired by the holiday of Thanksgiving in the month of November, the reminder of God's great blessings and my opportunity to worship Him through gratitude is certainly applicable all year long!

In fact, what better time of year to dwell on gratitude than at Christmas time, when we contemplate God's love, coming down to live among us in the form of the baby Jesus? It was the greatest sacrifice, the greatest proof of love of all.

(This month's (in)spired deals focus on that love.)

This Christmas, in the middle of the whirl of holiday festivities, I want to always remember the root of the whole celebration: gratitude for God's magnificent Gift.

(By the way, all of the stuff in this post is my own opinion; nobody's forcing me to say anything.) : )


From him.

For me.

Just because. <3

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

handmade Christmas 2011

Benjamin's oldest brother and his wife are expecting a little boy who is due to arrive in April. We are so happy for them. Of course I had to make a baby blanket for the new little nephew (my first nephew!), and sending it at Christmas time along with their other gifts just seemed like the logical thing to do.

Brother loved the quilt and helped me pin it together.
It took a bit of convincing before he understood
that this blanket was for his new cousin
and not for him.

As I worked on this quilt,
the bright colors, simple geometric shapes, and transportation prints
made me think of one of my boys' favorite board books:

So of course I had to get a copy
so that their cousin
can enjoy it

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

sibling, child, and family portraits

Yes, we covered a lot of ground very quickly in this hour session--we had to because it was cold, and the little ones would not have stood for much dawdling. This was my first photo session for people whom I had never met before stepping out of my car, camera in hand, to take their photos. It was, well, good but different than anything I've ever experienced.

Two sisters asked their mom to purchase photo sessions for them for their Christmas gifts, and then they were planning on using some of the photos to give the their mom as her gift. Pretty clever. They heard about me from a mutual friend. The following are a few of my favorite photos:

The older sister and her two adorable little ones.

I have to confess that I favor photographing little boys.
They're unpredictable and uninhibited,
they have such energy and zest for life,
and they usually have some excellent, creative ideas
of photos they would like for me to take.
They never fail to make me smile.

Little girls are fun too,
but I don't have as much experience photographing them yet...

The younger sister, her fiance, and their little son.


all three little ones