Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The stockings were hung

I read on someone's blog some advice this morning: Make your Christmas to-do list and then ... slash it in half. GREAT advice. I came to the same epiphany last week. I was putting a whole lot of expectations on myself (especially gift making) and while they were all good intentions, I was becoming a stressed-out mess. That is certainly not what this season is about! So, I gave myself a break. There are a few gifts that are not going to get made this year, but that's okay, there's always next year :)  For now, I'm only going to do the things that bring me and my family joy this Christmas! I want to have my family over and cook Christmas dinner (on Christmas Eve). That brings me joy! I'm working on some doll clothes and I love making little cute, scrappy doll clothes! Kelby needs a super cape, for sure. Picturing him running around in it definitely brings me joy. I want to focus on the advent and truly teach the kids the Christmas story and about God's grace. That will bring the most joy of all, for sure! (They are very into "the Jesus story" right now. I've caught them playing shepherds and such several times in recent weeks). Everything else can be skipped.

Anyway, we decorated for Christmas on Saturday. We have a new little tree and it was Kelby's turn to put the star on. He talked about it for days :)

What fun is a new Christmas tree if you don't make an airplane out of the box??

It's so much fun to see my stockings and Christmas quilt again! This may be the coziest quilt I've ever made. It's huge and backed with soft, heavy-weight gingham, I think that's why. It sure does make me happy :)

Kelby's out with my dad to see some big tractors today! Can't wait to hear all about it :) Then, later, I'll be toting the kids to the Christmas choir practice (for our homeschool co-op). I'll be using the time to knock out some hand sewing.

Annnnnd, the rough housing upstairs has turned to crying, so I'm out :) Cheers!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crochet, patterns, books and my famous dad

Oh, my goodness, there have been so many things I want to blog about and as much as I would love to be a daily blogger, let's face it--it's a busy time of year! So, I'm going to combine it all in one post :)

First off, it's been awhile since I've crocheted anything, it seems, but now that I am in that phase of life where I occasionally cart kids someplace only to sit until practice or class is over (no complaining about the sitting, I love it. I rarely get to sit :), I started this project and toted it along to work on whenever I could. Before long, I had this...
It's an infinity scarf. One big loop, so you can wear it like a cowl. It's mine, not Natalie's, but since she had it on, I let her model it for the picture--she's a beautiful model, too :) And now, she wants one too. A yellow one. And because she wants one, Layla wants one. Guess i have something to do on our coming road trip! Oh, I used this pattern and it was just lovely.

My JoAnn finally got the new McCall's patterns and since my mom was going while they were on sale this week, I asked her to pick up these three for me:
How fabulous is that Denise Schmidt quilt!? So excited. And, can you see the top right view on the apron pattern? It has a tool belt. I want to make all three kids aprons for Christmas and I have a great girlie apron pattern, but this one is perfect for Kelby. The skirt pattern is going to be great, I think. I do not like the saddle bag view--I don't know who would want to add ten pounds to each hip, but whatev.

Next up, did you know that thrift stores and consignment stores are the absolute best place to get kids' books?? Well, it's true. My consignment store has a book club--I get one free book per month per kid! Last time, I walked away with 8 books for $6. Not bad. Last night, I went to Savers, my favorite thrift store and came home with quite a load...
This isn't all. There are four more that were in the hands and laps of little ones when I took this picture :)  The Children's Books of Virtues and the Children's book of Faith are in new condition. So are some of the others. And, how awesome is the 1970 edition of the Richard Scary Mother Goose book?? Savers has kids books from .79-$1.99. Plus, for every 4, you get one free. AND, I had a 20% off coupon from a previous donation. Good deal. I see lots of homeschooling unit study and read aloud possibilities in this stack :)

Finally and probably the coolest part of this post!!! My Dad is in a video on Youtube!!! I love this video! It is SO much fun to see where he lives and works in Mongolia and to see him in action. Start looking for him right at 2 minutes. He's in a classroom and in front of an overhead screen. He's in it again towards the end and it's easy to spot him because I think he may be the only American face in there. And if you have little boys, they will love this, it's crammed full of tractors :)


Friday, November 18, 2011

Well, Hello, Pretty Ladies

I am done with my ornaments with time to spare! We are spending Thanksgiving with Casey's family a few hours away and I really wanted to take all their Christmas gifts with me. Then, we are traveling to spend a week with my family 18 hours away in the beginning of December, so I really needed to be done with my Christmas shopping and sewing early this year! Let me tell ya, it feels good!! But, anyway, I am SO HAPPY with how these little Matryoskas turned out!! They look so adorable staring up at me from their box :)
This is the one I'm keeping...
I've ordered pictures and bought wrapping paper. Now all I have to do is having my little wrapping party!! One of my favorite parts, for sure :) After our trip in December, I get to sew a few things for my own kidds--doll clothes, Barbie clothes and a super cape is on the list. Plus an apron for each if there's time!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints

My lovely Aunt Teddi has subscribed me to Everyday Food for my birthday again this year. My favorite food magazine by far and also my most used recipe collection! My Christmas edition arrived last week and as I was perusing it yesterday, I came upon this recipe, thought it looked good, noticed I had all the ingredients on hand and tried it out!
This is a keeper! Casey really loves these cookies and he is a picky cookie-lover. Consistency is everything to him and he think these are perfect. Also, many chocolate-chocolate cookies are soooo overly sweet, but these are not like that! Here's the recipe:

Chocolate-peppermint thumbprints
Makes 4 dozen


2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (3/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup each butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat to combine. 
  2. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 5 minutes. Remove sheets from oven; with the small end of a melon baller or the bottom of a small round measuring spoon make an indentation in center of each cookie. 
  3. Bake until cookies are just set but still look moist, 4 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
  4. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butter in 10-second increments until melted; stir in peppermint extract. Let cool until thick enough to pipe, 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large zip-top bag; snip 1/4-inch hole in one corner. Pipe chocolate into cookie indentations. Store in airtight containers, up to 1 week. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cynthia Rowley succeeds again

I made this dress at least a month ago and it's been sitting in my closet ever since! I wasn't sure I loved it, but I pulled it out and tried it on this morning and decided it's a keeper after all! I was hesitant about the higher neckline, but I really love the cute details on the sleeves and the tie in the back. I'm a sucker for a cute back :)

Here's the pattern envelope:
This is the third success I've had with the Cynthia Rowley pattern line. Then again, I did have one major flop (it was this pattern and I would NOT recommend it unless you want to construct the most ridiculously complicated dress you've ever made only to find out the bodice lining piece was drafted WRONG!) For the most part, though, I think I can trust the lines of her dresses to look good on my body type. I think I might try the flutter sleeve version of this in the summer. I don't know about the long sleeved, though. I think with the high neckline, there would just be too much coverage and may swallow me up. You can check my patternreview.com site (link in the sidebar) later for the review if you want. Surely I'll have a chance to write it today ;)

Friday, November 11, 2011

What to do with candy

A few years ago, I went through a period of completely eliminating sugar. It was beneficial in ways I can't even begin to tell you in one blog post! The women in my family are prone to hypoglycemia and later in life, diabetes, and my daughter Natalie and I are particularly sensitive to sugar. However, over the last year, I have loosened up a little bit in this area. In the spirit of practicing moderation in all things, I think it's fine and even good to enjoy sweet treats! Also, the older the kids get, the more difficult it is to take control of what they receive at certain places (like at church, for holidays, etc...) and the less likely they are to forget about it once it's in the house!

So, rather than make myself crazy trying to keep sugar completely out, I decided to let it go in some ways.  Add this to the list of reasons why I'm glad we homeschool! We can eat very healthfully here at home! And, when we eat sugar, it can be on purpose, because I can make sure it's not a secret ingredient in our salad dressing, our canned fruit, our bread, etc...! We can keep only milk and water around and eat actual fruit instead of juice from concentrate!

Okay, that was a long intro into what I really wanted to share :)  This is what I did with our Halloween candy from our church party this year:

I've been trying to teach Natalie about money, so I divided up the candy into three tubs, each with a different price tag and opened Mommy's Candy Store.  Every day after lunch, we have a "10 minute tidy", then each kid gets five pennies. This is enough for two small things or one big thing. (Notice I didn't make a 1 cent tub--I didn't want anyone to have 5 pieces at one time!) They are lovin' this. I think I'll stock up on dollar store items and more healthy treats and then I'll be able to teach some of the larger coins too. This could turn into quite a little store :)

Change of subject, but that brown bookshelf up there was given to me recently for more of our books and homeschool stuff (thank you Maggie!) and it's begging me daily for a makeover.
I'm thinking something like this...
(Repinned from Miranda Giles on Pinterest). 

Watcha think?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Can one really have too much fabric?

I had a very successful trip to JoAnn today! I have to be cryptic because most of the fabrics I bought are for gifts, so I'm not going to share. This week's ad had a killer coupon, though. All the cottons are already on sale and Simplicity patterns are only 99 cents, PLUS there is a 25% off your entire purchase coupon! That expires today, but this week is also military appreciation week, so the military gets 20% off everything! Yay! 

Last week, I bought some beautiful clearance fabrics and this one just screams Fall, so I had to make this up before getting a move on with the Christmas sewing. I made a simple dress out of it with Butterick 5438, my standby basic dress pattern. 
I took this picture before church. After church, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized I wasn't wearing any mascara. ACK!

I saw this fabric on someone else's blog this last week:

This is just too adorable, I can't stand it! We love matroyshkas! I must have this! My JoAnn didn't have it, but it's on sale online for pretty cheap, so I will absolutely be ordering a couple yards. Have no idea what I'll do with it. 

Some more fabrics you can be sure I'll buy some of -- Ed Emberly!!!!

We have several of his drawing books (the thumbprint one might be our fave) and I just love these fabrics!!! Due out in February, I believe, from Cloud9 Fabrics. Can't wait! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

speaking of organizing things...

...check out what I made for our school supplies!
It's made out of an ice cream bucket! Clever, right? The pattern is this one...
I'm pretty sure this pattern has been in the catalog almost my entire life. I actually remember it as a kid, but it gets overlooked because the styling is a bit dated :) The view on the top left is out of a five gallon bucket! If you adjusted the pockets, don't you think that could make an awesome Barbie case? Each doll gets a pocket and all the clothes go in the bucket! And, easy to carry around too.

Now that I've made one and we are already finding it so handy, the possibilities are endless. So far, keeping all the supplies in one place is really easing the after school or random card-making mess. And it's pretty enough to remain a permanent fixture in the middle of our big table :) I even toted it to our homeschool co op today because we are always needing more scissors, glue and markers in my little ancient history and crafts class.

I thought about making a few for gifts too, but then I realized how much ice cream we would need to eat in the next several weeks. Ha!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Home organization progress

A while back, I posted a desperate plea for housekeeping ideas and many of you came through! I did find it interesting, however, that the only people who posted tips were ones who have either zero children or one very small child. Why do you think that is? OH, of course, it's because no one with more than that actually has housekeeping down to a science, hahahaha! Good to know I'm not alone, I guess.

Well, I have made some progress, so I thought I'd share a little update.

One realization I came to its that its very easy to keep the accumulation of stuff from taking control in two places--my kitchen and my closet. This is because I don't have an abundance of space in those two areas. My kitchen is on the small side. It's sufficient space, but not huge, so it's easy for me to clean out when I can't close a drawer and it's easy to resist buying more kitchen gadgets that I know I don't have a spot for.

Likewise, I do not have a walk-in closet. Casey and I have two standard-sized closets in our room and we each have a dresser, so when I can't close drawers, or I run out of hangers, or things are falling onto the closet floor because it's over-stuffed, it's time to clean out and I do it pretty often.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the rest of our house has ample space for everything! It's not huge by 2011 standards, but it's on the big end of houses circa 1969 :) We have a basement, I have two linen closets, three bathrooms with storage space, a garage, a dining room and eat-in kitchen, a living room and a den. Because there truly is a place for everything, more and more things sneak into the house without much monitoring.

Don't get me wrong, we weed out pretty often and take a bunch of stuff to Savers at least once a month (it's how I get my 20% off coupons, ha!) Anyway, a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law was here and I started the oven on fire. So we cleaned it. Which led to her helping me clean out some kitchen drawers too. Which took me later that week to the pantry, the basement toy storage, the coat closet, the kids' rooms and my fabric stash. After that, Casey took a huge car-load to Savers to donate and boy, did it feel good!!!! I estimate that I got rid of at least a third of the kids' toys, stuffed animals and dress-up clothes. Then, they helped me organize the remaining toys into our clear plastic tubs in the basement.

The following week, I got sick. I had laryngitis and tried to simply keep on top of the basic mess. AND BOY, WAS I SURPRISED! At the end of the week, I realized how much easier staying on top of clutter had been because there was simply less stuff to deal with! As an added bonus, the kids can actually find their things and so they are actually playing with their things. It's nice. Ever since, I've been very careful in my shopping and Christmas planning, because I really don't want a huge amount of toys coming in over Christmas and our two winter birthdays.

So, as a homeschooling, stay-at-home family, we probably still have more "stuff" than the average family might (not to mention our hobbies!), but I think it's more under control now than it's been in awhile. I did come across this site, Organizing Made Fun, which is quite inspirational! I found her tips and photos and ideas pretty helpful through my clean-out process.

Now I feel that I need to work out a cleaning schedule for myself. You know, bathrooms, floors, etc... What does your schedule look like? If you don't have a cleaning schedule, do you do something else that works? How much time do you budget for cleaning each day?  Right now, I kinda just look around, see what needs done and do it within a day or two. I'd love more ideas!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Costumes are sooo much fun!!

I love making costumes. They are a chance to do over-the-top sewing and they sure do make the kids super happy :)  We went to our church harvest party last night and loaded up on fun and treats.  I was glad when it was finally time, because the kids pestered the heck out of me all day long about putting on their costumes and going to the party! So, I let them wear them a few hours early so we could have a little photo shoot.

Natalie was Silvermist from the Tinkerbell movies...

Layla wanted to be an angel. Not much of a leap for her because she is such a sweetie :)

And, one of the most awesome costumes I've ever made:
Kelby looked SO cool. This was a no sew project (actually, I did sew the Velcro onto the back of his shirt--the jet pack had matching stick-on Velcro).  I just bought white sweats and a bunch of felt, then made a huge, fun mess studying a Buzz toy, cutting out the pieces and hot gluing them on. For the hat I used the hood on a batman pattern and the jet pack is a piece of foam core. See?
And check it out, our little friend Jamie showed up as Woody! So cute!

I wasn't going to be anything because I didn't think I had time (I wanted to make a poodle skirt), but on Sunday, I thought, "Well, I could throw on my apron, at least". That turned into a quick search for a chef hat tutorial, which I found here, and I whipped one up Monday morning.
That's my mom as "Super Granny" and Casey is three-hole-punch Jim. If you are a fan of The Office, you will get it :)