Sunday, January 31, 2010

One more challenge

I'm finding that blog challenges really work to keep me motivated. I said in public I was going to do it? I'd better actually do it! Embarrassment as motivator; works for me.

So I've decided to join another: Crunchy Chicken's Food Waste Reduction Challenge. The gist is: stop wasting so much food. Because it saves the energy involved in making that food and getting it to you. Because it saves you money. And because, as precious as food is, it is just wrong to waste it in the cavalier way we so often do.

Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2010

Now February is a really hard time for me to do this. Right about now, the apples I picked in October are getting all soft and squishy and I'm almost as likely to discover a black one as I am a red one when I unwrap their newspaper-encased selves. And the squash in the basement are starting to look a bit squashed. And we have started referring to the onions as "the onion garden" because it's a lovely lush landscape of green sprouts.

Add to that 6 children who don't exactly clean their plates. They do scrape those plates into the "chicken bowl" (bowl of scraps for Gertie, Henny Penny, and Rosie), but Crunchy Chicken's not letting us get away with that "I fed it to the chickens" excuse. Nope. We're supposed to use it up, not throw it out.

So, I'm off to go survey my fridge and see what's about to die in there. You know I'm not the most inspired cook around. Wish me luck in figuring out how to save what's in there! I'll let you know if I figure out any good recipes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

In the works...

I haven't been sewing much lately; been too tired to do more than the regular evening clean-up and prep most nights. But I have started a few little projects...

For Lucy's birthday (can it really be only 2 weeks away? It feels like she was born weeks ago!), I've started a birthday bunting (based on the one in The Creative Family).

(That's my wild 60s tablecloth they're on; maybe I should have found a neutral background!)

And to make this drafty, freezing old house a bit warmer, I'm planning to make some draft dodgers. It's a big project: each window will need two. I went back and forth about fabrics: one beautiful fabric? a patchwork?, plain white to match the windows? In the end, I decided on plain white, because we do NOT want to draw attention to our windows. (What? You're supposed to scrape the paint off the glass after you paint? That's not how they're supposed to look? Just take a quick peek and then look away. That's right. There's something shiny on the other side of the room...)

I used the plain white fabric of a dust ruffle I'd bought for the skirt fabric. To make them a bit more interesting and to add to the "warmth" factor (if only psychologically), I decided to embroider them with warm-ish words. Cozy. Warm. Roasty. Toasty. (Got some ideas for me? I have a lot to make.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I just had to share this milestone with you. A few weeks ago, Lucy began walking. If we asked her to come to us while she held onto a table, she'd let go and walk a few steps, landing in our arms with a huge grin and a hug. Just this week, she's started walking unsupported more and more often, without us suggesting it first. A few days ago, after a day when she took maybe 5-9 steps many many times, I decided to try to capture some of it on video. When the kids went home, I set up the iMovie on the computer to catch her at play. In the midst of filming, Andi came home from work. I stood Lucy up to go to her, and she walked 19 steps! The most ever. I was so happy to have caught it on video (the grandmas always want to see video!) She's so thrilled with herself. We thought you might like to see.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tidbits and mud

I have been doing some blog-worthy things lately. Really I have. There's been a wee bit of thrift shopping:

And a good deal of baking:

And I'd write to tell you all about it, but at the moment, I'm buried in a pile of laundry. Why so much laundry, you ask?

Well, it may have something to do with the way we spend our days...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Perpetual to-do list

No, not that list--the one you wrote a million to-dos on that will never get done. I mean one that gets used again and again and again. Like this:

In our house, if the dishes don't get washed at night, or the laundry's heaped on the couch, 5 other families are going to see the mess when they bring their children in in the morning. Not only is that super embarrassing, but it's important to me to create an organized, uncluttered environment for the children: it settles them and helps them focus their thinking and play. And in addition to normal family chores, we have extra prepare-for-tomorrow's-group-of-kids chores (like changing the bedding on 5 nap mats). Trying to get all that done--while simultaneously preparing, eating, and cleaning up dinner, spending a bit of time together as a family, getting Lucy to bed, and trying to have a few minutes of the day when we're not working--has presented, shall we say, just a wee bit of stress. (Do you hear the sarcasm there?)

We needed a system. Something to keep us on the same page so I wasn't nagging all the time. Of course, my thoughts went first to a to-do list (we both love crossing things off a list). I thought about typing it and printing a ton of copies, but what a waste of paper! So one night, I grabbed one of the kids' chalkboards and used a sharpie to write out our morning and evening chores. It sits on our kitchen counter, and we use it daily to keep track of what's been done and what's left to do.

Now, I can't say that the house is always spotless when the parents arrive in the morning. (In fact, I can pretty much promise that it's not. I work far too many hours a day and have had to give up the hope of a perfectly clean home.) But I can say that the things on the list are finished. And that helps me start the day on a much more peaceful note. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go change the mats so I can cross it off the list.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sowing seeds

Yesterday, Andi said that the one thing she was really missing this winter was lettuce. Well, I can't produce lettuce from storage, but something green and crisp and fresh? That, I thought I could manage.

For some reason, I have never grown sprouts. It was on my list of things to try this winter, and I'm finally getting around to it. Here are my adzuki sprouts, started last night:

Adzuki sprouts, day 1

(I used a piece of an onion bag as the top.)

I don't have much of a green thumb, but hey, I only have to keep these alive for a few days!

And speaking of sprouting things...

I've decided to join One Green Generation's Growing Challenge for the coming year. The seed catalogs have started arriving in the mail, and they've got me thinking about spring. I haven't had a whole lot of luck so far growing food from seed in our very shady yard, but I am determined to do better this year. This challenge seemed like it might help me stay motivated on that goal. For this challenge, I need to:

1. Plant 3 crops from seed.
2. Plant the "seeds" in 3 other people (inspire 3 other people to plant something from seed.), and
3. Post about it on the One Green Generation site.

So, consider yourselves invited to join me in this challenge. Never planted anything from seed before? It's a great time to try! (She's got some suggestions of easy beginner crops here.) I'll post more as I choose my seeds and get started planting. If you join me, you'll help me meet goal #2!

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know we've made a commitment to eating only locally-grown produce. Nothing's more local than your own backyard. I've got enough planted in my yard so far that I know the thrill of stepping out the back door to fill a basket with lunch. Now I want to do more; to have a truly edible landscape. Please consider joining me in this first step; this is a simple start toward a greener life!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Vintage Swap Winter 2010

It seems many of my favorite bloggers have joined Vintage Swap at one point or another. I've read many a post about the lovely things people have sent and received as a part of this exchange. It seemed like just the thing to brighten up grey winter days, so I've joined this go-round. I'm new to the world of crafty-mama blog swaps, but I'm super excited to participate in this one. I wonder if there's anyone out there who shares my particular love for vintage children's books and tablecloths and aprons and dishcloths and pyrex and...

You might want to go on over and check out their site, though sign-ups are done for this round. Seems like there will be posts about all kinds of good thrifty finds, and there's a tempting blog roll I'll have to check out (as if I don't read enough blogs!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Crochet in my future

On a gorgeous Saturday morning, Lucy and I walked to a nearby school to register for a class. Here's my homework: get a ball of yarn and a crochet hook. Ok, I did that part. In less than a week, I'll find out if my generally-pretty-clueless hands can figure out what to do with them. Wish me luck! I really want to be able to create something out of yarn (you know, beyond pom-poms), but so far, my hands haven't cooperated. I'm nervous, but thrilled, too, at the opportunity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Barn Booty

So I promised I'd share the books I got on our road trip this past weekend. I think I showed great restraint. This is all we bought:

from the Book Barn

In the foreground is a pile of what we call "beach reads" (appropriate for our January beach day, right?). We're exhausted mamas these days, and reach for easy reading most often. You can see I cracked one of them right away (and can't put it down!)

And then, of course, there's the real treasure--the kids' books. Kids books get read over and over and over again, so I have to love them! I got some great ones. Those Little Golden Books are really exciting to me, because I remember them fondly from childhood. Eloise Wilkins pretty much defines my early childhood book memories, and that kindergarten book looks to me just exactly like what kindergarten should be: singing and playing and fingerpainting and napping (not the pushed-down academics it's become). I have 4 kids heading to kindergarten this fall (no, not mine!) and I'll love sharing this book with them. And Rabbit and His Friends! For years I wondered what was that platypus book I remembered from childhood, and finally, Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves gave me the answer. She's also the one who inspired me to get Plenty of Fish. I love how it shows a kid finding answers to his own scientific questions. And I got The Tomten and the Fox for my chicken-loving, fox-loving, predator-and-prey-stories-loving kids. And a Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka book for me because something about their sweet old-fashioned innocence appeals to me so. There's more in there, too, but I guess those are the ones that excited me the most.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cozy cashmere for the Craft Hope Etsy Shop

Lucy models outfit for Craft Hope Etsy shop

So, I decided what to make for the Craft Hope Etsy shop (have you been there yet? Such beautiful things! Going so, so quickly! I'm thrilled to hear they've made over $7,000 so far.)

I'm sorry the pictures are so bad; I finished it in broad daylight, but my model was napping! I wanted to get it to them right away, so I hope shoppers can see past the bad lighting.

Lucy models outfit for Craft Hope Etsy shop

Lucy likes it, anyway!

Lucy models outfit for Craft Hope Etsy shop

My donation was a "Cashmere Baby Dress and Longies Set"

This wonderfully soft and cozy outfit is made from a recycled, felted lavender cashmere sweater. Included are a pair of "longies" (wool diaper-cover pants), which will come lanolized and ready to wear. (If you don't use cloth diapers, they make lovely leggings, too.) There's also a comfy dress, warm enough for winter, but lightweight enough to carry right over into spring. Eyelet trim on the arms and pocket give it a cute girly look. This outfit is made for play--it moves with your child and doesn't get in the way of crawling or walking.

Want a cute, comfy outfit for your baby? Need some more diaper covers? $30, and all of it goes to Doctors Without Borders. It should be in the shop by tomorrow.

(I said I'd share my books with you, and I will...tomorrow. This seemed more pressing.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Road trip

Every January, I get an urge to go to the beach. One year, on our way to the nearest beaches, we made a wonderful discovery: the Book Barn (actually several barns and sheds and decrepit buildings, housing thousands of books and countless cats). That became our January beach-day companion destination. The next year, we brought friends, and they asked to go to Mystic Pizza. Today, we headed out for that same road trip, sure to become an annual affair.

The book barn is a dream for book-lovers (if you can handle the cat smell...). Here is just a tiny portion of the craft section:

And here are the Little Golden Books in the kids' room:

(I'll show you my finds tomorrow. Several came from these boxes.)

Once we'd filled our bags with books, we headed off to Mystic for its famous pizza.

Julia Roberts wasn't there today, but we got to watch her in all her big-haired glory on a silently-running t.v. while we ate. And they made Andi and Lucy a dairy-free pizza. Happy baby!

Finally, it was time for the beach. Unfortunately, by now it had started to rain, and the temperature was dropping. But nothing keeps me from the beach. Our first glimpse:

Ahhh...something about that vast expanse of sand and water just melts all my stress away.

We had different ways of exploring. Tim and Eric walked:

Lucy got down on her belly and put her face right down for a good taste of the sand:

We weren't quick enough to catch it on camera, but we were there just in time to watch a seagull try to manage its meal of a giant starfish.

By then we were thoroughly chilled and ready to get back in the car. But I can't wait to go back. Books, pizza, and the ocean...a perfect antidote for January.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


It's a brilliant blue day, warm enough to go out in just a sweater. I've been really disappointed in the minimal snowfall so far this winter, but I can't complain about a break in the cold that's as lovely as this!

The ground has turned to mud and that meant the chicken coop was in desperate need of a clean-out. I had to chase the chickens out of the coop and into the sun (they're very timid about the snow).

They fluttered in a flurry of ineffective wings from muddy patch to muddy patch.

Slowly, they began to dare to step onto the snow.

They escaped cold toes by roosting in my neighbor's "rust garden."

But then Rosie dared to mince her way across the expanse of snow to the woods.

Where she goes, the others follow.

Now they're happily scratching and foraging in the sunny leaf mold under the trees. And I'm off to do more chores that will take me outside.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Craft Hope's Etsy Shop for Haiti

It seems all my favorite bloggers are writing about Haiti, far better than I could hope to do. So I'll keep it short and sweet and just say Craft Hope has set up an Etsy shop as a fundraiser for Doctors without Borders. There are gorgeous things there, if you're in the mood to buy (100% of proceeds will be donated). I'm thinking about what to make to offer for sale (any suggestions?).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Allergy-friendly teether recipe

You are not likely to get many recipes from me here. I'm not a great cook, and I'm certainly not creative with my cooking: I generally follow recipes to the letter. However, I cook A LOT. I make six children 2 snacks and 2 meals a day, in addition to helping with evening and weekend meals for our family. And we've made a commitment to eating only local produce and trying to avoid unnecessary packaging, so that means most things are made from scratch. Add to that the fact that Lucy has allergies, and I've been forced to become a bit more creative.

So I do have a recipe to share today, because I was really frustrated when I tried to find one for teething crackers I could make for Lucy. She's allergic to dairy and soy, which means that even if I wanted to buy some, it'd be really hard to do. (But I don't want to buy them, because of all the packaging, and transportation, and unnecessary ingredients, and too much sugar...) We're also supposed to be extra-careful about potential allergens, like honey and eggs, because of her history. So I was surprised and frustrated to find out that most teething-cracker recipes included ingredients I couldn't use: eggs (have to wait until after a year old), honey (ditto), bananas (not local)... Hmm. Time to get creative.

I found a recipe in Vicki Lansky's Feed Me, I'm Yours for "Homemade Graham Crackers," which she said could be rolled thicker to make teething biscuits. I altered the recipe so much, I feel ok about sharing it here.

Lucy's Teething Crackers

1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. oat flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 C. coconut oil
1/2 C. maple syrup
1/4 C. coconut milk

Combine flours and baking powder. Cut in coconut oil until consistency of cornmeal. Stir in maple syrup and coconut milk to make a stiff dough.

Roll out to 1/2 inch thick or so. Cut. Prick with a fork. Bake at 400 on ungreased baking sheet for 18 minutes or until golden brown.

(Ok, so the coconut oil and milk are SO not local, but they are our favorite, tasty substitutes for butter and milk, adopted since this allergy came up; it makes baking so much easier. Also, I'd like to experiment with less sweetener, but I'd changed so many ingredients I left it alone for this run. I'm going to substitute some applesauce for part of it next time.)

Sometimes Lucy likes to gnaw on them. Sometimes, she wants us to break off pieces for her to eat. They're loved by the pickiest eater in my group, and so I tried one myself, and found they're really tasty! Let me know if you try them, or if you have any favorite teether recipes to share.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas cards, reincarnated

We finally got all the Christmas things stored away this weekend, and tucked in with them are some new ornaments. After I saw these, I knew I wanted to make some; and in the spirit of do-it-while-it's-fresh-in-your-mind, I did it this weekend, using this year's Christmas cards. (We keep those with letters from family and friends, but if it's just signed? It's getting chopped up and remade into something else. Usually tags for next year's gifts, but we have too many of those right now...)

Ok, so it's not a gift, but it is for Christmas next year, so maybe it's a start in the right direction?

The specifics:

For my first one, I cut the suggested measurements in half, to accommodate the smaller size of the cards. It was hard to curve the pieces without bending them when they were that little.

For the following ones, I just made the strips about an inch different from each other: almost 8 inches, almost 7 inches, 6 inches, 5 inches, for example, using full strips sometimes and cutting some to make them short enough.

I had a hard time getting a good photo, but I think you get the gist. I plan to hang them in windows next year.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Argyle, head to toe

It's finished! Here's the refashion I hinted about the other day...

dress and longies from felted sweater

It was time for yet another pair of longies. So a while ago, I'd pulled out a pile of felted sweaters whose arms seemed about the right width and length for Lucy right now. Among them was this one. Naturally, I forgot to take a "before" shot, but you can picture it: a grey, pink, and white argyle sweater; 1990s style, with big shoulder pads. Ick. But when I spotted it at the thrift store, I knew it had potential for a baby.

So I chopped off the legs and did the usual thing. When I was finished, I was left with the body of the sweater, and the pattern was too cute to chop up into shorties. I wondered if I could make a dress.

And I did!

I took a favorite knit dress of Lucy's and laid it on the sweater to see if it might work. I'd originally thought "jumper," but realized there was enough fabric for a short-sleeved dress. I also decided to turn the sweater upside down so I could use some of the waistband as a finished neckline. As I positioned my model dress on top of the sweater, I realized the waistband could make a turtleneck. How cozy!

I wasn't sure if it would be too tight going over her head, so I left one side of the turtle open, and used a scrap to make a flap for a buttonhole. I decided to finish the other edges (sleeves, hem) with embroidery floss, using a blanket stitch, because I am still not satisfied with my results when I finish felted wool on my machine. I added a little pocket to break up the big expanse of grey on the lower part of the dress.

The resulting dress has a strangely grown-up style, but with its matching longies is so comfy and cozy like pjs, it's perfect for a baby. Good for a baby's dusting under the couch:

(I tried and tried to get a shot of the turtleneck with its cute pink button, but my model is very active!)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fresh corners of my own

I read Soulemama's "Fresh corners" post earlier this week and desperately wanted some fresh corners of my own. So today, we tackled the kitchen. While Andi caulked and scrubbed, I emptied, scrubbed, weeded out, and reorganized shelves. It's amazing what a re-organized cupboard can do for your mood. So far...

I started small and manageable: the little tea cabinet. It was so stuffed, we couldn't shut the door properly! Now it all fits (barely):

tea cabinet

(I've got to polish off some of that boxed stuff, because I want to fill this cabinet with my own grown and foraged herbs.)

That was satisfying, so I felt able to tackle a bigger mess: the cookbooks in my island. They'd outgrown their space. I gave each book a critical perusal, and was able to weed some out. Nice fresh shelves:

(There are toys interspersed because if I put toys in there, the babies and toddlers are less likely to pull out my cookbooks. The basket contains the heap of bibs.)

Time for something more fun. I did these shelves, refolding my vintage aprons and dish cloths and re-arranging a few tchotchkes:

With all that accomplished, I felt able to tackle the biggest task of all: the dish shelves. These were a wreck. The dust! The spider webs! (The stuff way up high is rarely used, or, apparently, cleaned.) Some of the shelves were crammed too tight. Some of the stuff we use daily was on the top shelf, where (short) Andi could never put it away. Some stuff had no place. Now, it's SO much better. (Of course, I still envy lovely cohesive things like Martha Stewart's all-white dishes, but this is more real-life us; things given to us or bought over the years, old and new, all mixed together.)

re-organized dish shelf

Friday, January 8, 2010

In the works...

Ooh...I finally got to a project that's been waiting (in the heap by the sewing machine) for too long. And it's coming out so, so cute! Not quite ready to show, but here's a peek. Crossing my fingers for lots of sewing time this weekend...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New inspiration on my bookshelf

For years, Andi and I have blocked out Thursdays on our calendars as "date night." It usually just means going downtown for dinner and maybe a bit of browsing, but it means we have time for just us. Now that Lucy's here, our date nights have become "family date nights." Tonight, we did our old favorites: dinner out, and a browse in a favorite bookstore to check out what's new.

Usually, we just look, add books to our wish lists, and dream. But tonight, while I was drooling over the new craft books and started showing Andi the ones I coveted, she said "buy it" at the first one. Yay! I got this one:

Shop Indie Bookstores

And did I mention that she picked out some crafty books for me for Christmas, too? She got me:

Shop Indie Bookstores


Shop Indie Bookstores

Good choices!

What'll I make first?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A few last gifts

Ok, I finally gave our last Christmas gifts tonight (yeah, a bit late). So now I can feel free to show them.

More "discards" inspired by Denyse Schmidts's Quilts:

This set of them included a lot of vintage fabrics, and I found that I really liked the contrast of the modern style with those sweet vintage patterns.

One last 10-minute headband:

And, best of all, the pencil pouch that worked! (Bless you, Noodlehead.)

This last was a gift for a four-year-old. I used his own handwriting as the pattern for the embroidery, and included a pencil and a pen and a sketch book (of course, his mom is the one who really loves it, with that precious handwriting).

edited to add: I can't take credit for the pencil-pouch idea; that was from my brilliant friend Julie, who gave embroidered pencil pouches to her friends' children, using her daughter's handwriting and drawing. Shamelessly stolen!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who's the weirdo with the dishes in her purse?

Here's another one of the gifts I made for Christmas (well, made and bought).

This was a gift for a friend who's been inspired to make some green changes in her life: a zipper pouch filled with stainless steel straws and bamboo sporks, to help her family avoid plastic while eating out.

When I was in college, I carried my mug with me everywhere, clipped to my backpack (then, a new idea). I'm embarrassed to admit that for a while, I stopped doing that, and went back to buying disposable cups with my drinks. But at some point, I wised back up and started using a mug again for my coffee and a Kleen Kanteen for water. Then a while back, I was reading "No Impact Man" and he inspired me to start carrying a "weirdo cloth" in my purse (a bandana that replaced disposable napkins). Soon after that, I found bamboo sporks in a local store, and my purse became a definite weirdo zone, but my disposables consumption went way down (and by the way, those sporks are the perfect tool for feeding a baby off your restaurant plate).

This friend loves straws, so she inspired me to seek out non-disposable straws. I loved the glass ones I found, but went with stainless for a lighter load (my purse is getting pretty crowded, now! Oh, yeah--I bought straws for us while I was at it).

I thought I could wing making the pouch, but was thwarted by the zipper once again (I don't think I really have a zipper foot for my machine, and I didn't know where to put the zipper pull while I sewed, so it's a kind of a mess). Don't you know, the next day my Google reader fed me the perfect tutorial (thank you Noodlehead!), so now I know how to make a decent pouch, and I'll have to make her a new one asap.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Watercolor painting--10 month style


Ooh...this stuff feels so good on my hands!


Look, Mommy got another brush ready for me. Time to trade.


Hey, Mommy's dipping the brushes into that stuff over there. Maybe I'll try it!