Month: October 2011

Giving Teddy Ruxpin an "inside voice"

  For some reason, children’s toy manufacturers seem to think the appropriate volume level for noisy toys is “deafening”.  I think most kids at this point have a stash of toys that whooop or beep or play a song.  Usually it’s not the parents who bought those toys.

  G, of course, loves his noisy toys.  Me and the Mr.?  Not so much.  It’s awesome that he can play music for himself so he can dance, but I swear, I flinch every time I hear the starting notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
  I think I’ve mentioned before that I was staring a moms group.  We had our first meeting this past Friday and one of the moms shared her secret for muffling the noisy toys.  It’s so easy, so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.
   What you need:
Noisy toys, clear packaging tape, a homicidal rage every time you hear children’s songs
  Find the speaker on your toy, rip off a square of clear tape and put it on top.  TADA!  Half the volume!  Seriously the simplest tip ever, right?  I plan on doing this to every. single. toy.
  How about you guys?  Will you be muffling your toys?

Faking "well rested" with makeup, with time left for a nap

  Not long after G was born, I was perusing my local library.  I’m kind of a book addict, so even though most people probably don’t get a whole lot of reading done when they have a newborn, I get withdrawl shakes if I don’t get my regular “fix” of literature.  Fiction, non-fiction, novel, magazine…whatever.  I just need something in written form.

  Because it was right after G was born, I was…uhm…slightly less bright than usual from the lack of sleep.  I picked out this book and brought it home:
  …this wasn’t the book I wanted it to be.  I’m 29…if I looked ten years younger, people wouldn’t let me buy wine and I’d be getting hit on by high schoolers.  Yuck.  No thanks.  The book I was hoping this would be was this:
Seriously…somebody write this…please?
  I read it anyways.  Thought maybe I could use some of the tricks not to look younger but to look more well rested.  She certainly has good advice…it’s just that a lot of it isn’t applicable to me yet. 
  What this book DID point out to me that I have done something about is that we have to be really careful to not fall into habits with our makeup.
  …I already said I don’t want to still look 19, so why was I still doing my makeup the same way?
  I think most girls start using makeup for the same reason.  They want to look like women.  They want to look more mature and adult, as well as more beautiful.  Ok…fine…but while looking 21 or 22 when I was 19 was a desirable thing (especially because at 19 I looked about 15), looking older when I’m nearly 30 isn’t really what I want.  It was time for some changes.
Toooo much makeup.
  One thing this book (and any “don’t age yourself with makeup” article) will tell you is that the fastest way to make yourself look older is to wear too much makeup.  I was definitely in this camp.  I love theater and one of my best friends is a photographer with whom I’ve done many photo shoots with fantastical makeup (see above).  I treated makeup like it was finger paint and my face the canvas (in the picture above, it actually was poster paint).  …that stops working when you stop wanting to add years.
  I took a long hard look at my (bucket of) makeup and decided what I couldn’t live without and what was best put away as “special occasion” stuff.  I pared my routine down to these four items:
Ok…five if you count the business card
  It’s not about looking older and more worldly now, it’s about looking healthy and well rested.  Besides, less makeup products and a more streamlined routine for putting it on means you get to be more well rested, cuz you can sleep in!
  Here’s how I use my streamlined makeup:  (warning, picture of me with no makeup and little sleep coming up)
The face that launched 1,000 ships…in the other direction
  This is me, about half an hour after waking up, nothing on my face but my daily spf/moisturizer (you are wearing sunscreen right now, right?  No?  I’ll wait.  Go get some.  Seriously.).  My skin is all red because I just finished washing my face, but as you’ll see as the pictures go on, that fades pretty quickly.
  …it took some serious self control, but the only photo-editing I did on these pictures was to remove red eye or crop photos to a more manageable size.  If Jessica Simpson can do it on the cover of Marie Claire, I guess I can do it on here.
  First things first, I put on mascara.  This is the single item that makes the biggest, most dramatic change in appearance for me.  I use a business card (or hotel key card) held at the base of my lashes (against my eyelid) to allow me to coat the lashes from root to tip without coating my eyelids in black goo.
  I really resisted the business card trick for a long time.  It sounded like a pain in the butt and I couldn’t quite understand where they meant to put the card.  Pictures would have really helped me.
I think nobody put up pictures because you look ridiculous doing it…
  Try it out.  Once you get the hang of it, it makes a HUGE difference.  Pharmacy mascara very quickly starts looking like department store mascara and because all your roots get coated, you get a sort of faux eyeliner without any harsh line.
I promise, I didn’t take a 2 hour nap between this and the first shot
  So if I needed to, I’d be good to leave the house like this, but if I have the time, I’ll keep going.  My next step is to darken in some patchy spots in my eyebrows.
  This is a really subtle, finicky one.  If you’re doing it right, nobody will notice your eyebrows, but they’ll open up your eyes more and make you look more awake.  I definitely advise taking pictures of yourself with this one until you get the hang of it.  …after taking this picture I recognized that the pencil needed to be blended in better.  If you’re going to skip a step, this would probably be the one…just make sure your brows are well maintained otherwise.
  Next up is stain.  I use Benetint’s rose colored stain.  It multitasks, looks pretty and I don’t have to worry about getting lipstick on G or the Mr. when I kiss them.
  The stain goes on both my lips and cheeks.  For my cheeks, I dot 3 small dots of liquid on the apple of my cheek and then smear it around and up my cheekbone before repeating it on the other side.  For my lips, I cover the entire lip with a thin layer and then concentrate the color in the very center.  If you imagine sucking something off of your finger, the color should be concentrated on the parts of your lips where your finger touches.  Apparently young, especially healthy people have darker centers of their mouths.  Fake it!
  The last step I take is to smear rosebud salve all over my face.  …well, I guess not technically my whole face, but it’s absolutely another multi-tasker!
  The rose balm goes on my lips for chapstick, my cheeks (to fake that dewy, glowing skin everybody wants), a touch to smooth my eyebrows into place, and in a couple strategic places around my eyes to fake that “I go to bed at a reasonable hour and drink 3 gallons of water a day” look.  Highlight with the balm by smearing a little right under your eyebrows (I usually do it at the same time as smoothing my brows down) and a touch in the inside corner of your eyes.  If you have deep set eyes/a tall bridge of your nose like I do, it’s not a bad idea to dab a bit up in the valley your nose creates above that inner corner too.
  That’s it!  4 products, not a lot of work and you’re ready to head out the door, a fresh faced, healthy looking, beautiful adult woman!  
Do you have any great tips for looking well rested and healthy when you’re not?

Halloween sewing (Dopey costume)

  I’m really excited.  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and this year I get to share it with my little boy!  Last year he was way too young to have a clue what was going on, so we skipped the costume and just let him nap.  This year we’re trying trick or treating.

  I know, I know…he’s probably not going to “get” it.  But he’s old enough he thinks dressing up is fun (finally!) and I think he’ll really get into running around to people’s doors.  If not?  No biggie.  It’ll be a short trip.  Either way, he’s little enough I’m totally going to trade him some applesauce for all his candy.  Have to take advantage of the ability to do that before he knows better and I have to beg him to eat any fruit/give Mama a Snickers bar.
  Because it’s my favorite holiday, I’m a little snotty about buying costumes.  If you’re going to do Halloween, you should do it right.  …because obviously all of us know how to sew and have the time to make up multiple, elaborate costumes, right?  Oh look…there goes a unicorn…I must be in fantasy land again…

  To be honest, I didn’t have time to do a costume for both me and G this year.  The election campaign is coming to a close, I had a big test two weeks ago, we celebrated our five year anniversary and I’ve been trying to get some end of the season landscaping done before the real cold hits.
  I have quite a few old costumes kicking around from college.  Some of them are a little…uhm…risque for a mom to be running around in (one of them involved a gold metallic spandex bodysuit…what was I thinking??).  After trying a bunch of them on, I decided my best bet was my old Snow White costume.  Which means G is going as this guy:
  I started out by using the button down shirt pattern I’d modified as a reference.
  I lengthened the pieces and added inches to the side seams to get a more floppy look (and so we can fit more clothes underneath if it’s cold).  For the collar, I sewed the shoulder seams together and cut out a rectangle the same length as the finished neckline, then folded it in half before attaching it.
  To create a “too big, rolled up” look for the sleeves, I created a faux cuff (that also finishes the sleeve edge).
  Turn the coat inside out and fold the sleeve up twice.  The unfinished edge should be touching the fold inside of your cuff.  Sew a line of stitching all the way around the cuff, just inside the fold, making sure you’re catching the raw edge in between the two other pieces.  Turn the coat right side out and flip the cuff to the outside.  Voila!  Your sleeve edge is finished and you have a faux cuff.
  For the hat, I cut out this funky shape:
  For fit, I put it on G’s head and then turned the extra up inside of the hat and stitched it at the seams.
  Add some buttons and a belt and you’ve got yourself one adorable little dwarf.
Now who wants to give me G some candy??

Ginger & Star Anise Chicken

  The other night the Mr. had a work meeting he was going to be at late.  That meant I was on my own for dinner.  Uh oh.  I had already planned the menu and done the ingredient shopping without realizing he wasn’t going to be here (apparently it’s a good idea to occasionally listen when your spouse talks) and so I had all the stuff for a brand new recipe and was missing my chef.

(Don’t worry, this has a happy ending, the house is still standing).
  I thought about having leftovers for dinner.  I thought about making one of the recipes I’m already comfortable with (almost entirely pasta dishes).  I thought about ordering a pizza….but I finally came to the conclusion that if I did that, the recipe had won.  I couldn’t have that.
If I can make this, you can too
  I’ve been trying to find more vegetarian recipes that we like lately.  We’ve been having a series of painfully bad failures.  Recipes from magazines that photograph well, but nobody actually eats…or at least, shouldn’t.
  The Mr. pointed me to  I was intimidated.  This is a really extensive site by people who know their stuff when it comes to food.  I needn’t have worried.  Newbies like me can click the “recipes” tab and then browse by category without fear of stumbling upon some scary article on technique…or, you know, how to do more than boil water.
  Once we’d tried a few of their vegetarian recipes successfully I started branching out into the other categories.  This was one of the recipes I found.
  Here’s what you need:
I browned the chicken skin before this pic…got a little ahead of myself

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces  (thighs and legs)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup Chinese rice wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh clementine or orange juice (optional)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  •   The spatter guard isn’t something the original recipe mentions, but it is NOT optional. Unless you like oil burns.  Then go for it.  The oil spits like crazy while you’re browning the chicken.  G kept making the baby sign for “rain” at me while it was cooking, because it was so noisy it sounded like a downpour outside.
      The recipe calls for scallions, but we had chives out in the garden, so I subbed those in.  The garlic is some of what we grew this summer.
      I apologize I didn’t take pics of each of the steps, but there was a high volume of traffic in my kitchen while I was cooking, and I didn’t want to get run down by a car while attempting to photograph chicken.
      Once your chicken is browned, you create your sauce and then simmer your chicken in it until it is cooked through (double check that the inside is at least 165 degrees with a meat thermometer if you’re not sure if it’s done).  It should take between 5 and 10 minutes.  This is a great time to play with any insane drivers who may be tearing through your kitchen.
      After the chicken is cooked enough to keep everybody from dying of food poisoning, reduce your sauce.
    By “reduce” of course, I mean “boil the bejesus out of it”
      Once your sauce is nice and thick, put your chicken back in to glaze it.
    I think this is how you glaze…nobody who cooks was here to correct me.
      Take your chicken out of the pan and sprinkle it with cut scallions chives and serve.  The recipe says to serve with white rice, but I’m a rebel, so I served mine with salad and berries.  That’s right recipe, you don’t own me.
      No fires, delicious dinner and another recipe under my belt.  I win.

    Organizing with Dorky Binders

      So I’ve already shown off what an organizing dork I am with my menu and my emailed reminders.  Now it’s time to show off my real secret weapon.

    Oh yeah…glorified Trapper Keeper…woooo!
      This binder is the only thing keeping me sane lately.
      I’ve done the Franklin Covey planner.  It was awesome in college.  But it turns out, most of the stuff I need to keep track of now is way too big for that cute, reasonably sized planner.  Besides, who wants to drop the money they’re looking for on the refills every year?
      My long range and repeating events all get taken care of through my google calendar.  All I really need is a place for my events that are happening that week, a to do list, and a place to keep track of my frequently referenced documents.  This does that perfectly.
      For my to-do list, I used my hole punch in a stack of scrap paper I had.  Every night before bed I write down what I need to get done the next day.  Makes falling asleep much easier.
      My weekly calendar and my blogging calendar were both printed out from this site.
      They’re both in a plastic sleeve and I use a wet erase marker to scribble all over them.
      My tabs are “g.c.b.”, community, school, home & yard.
      The g.c.b. tab of course is all my information on the baby clothing business.  Paperwork I need to reference for transactions, ideas for things I’m working on, stuff like that.
      The community tab is where I keep information on everything that’s going on around town.
      My gym class schedule is in there, events at the library go in there & my paperwork for my city council campaign is in there.
      The school tab has test results, future class plan layouts and adviser contact information.
      The home tab has recipes and instructions I reference semi-frequently (not frequently enough I can remember without them being written down!) and the yard tab has sketches for landscaping plans and structures we want to build.
      I’m thinking about adding another tab for ideas for trips with G (or with the older kiddos in the moms group I just formed), but I haven’t gotten around to it just yet.
      Want one?  Mine is just a plain white cheapo binder I’ve put art paper into (hit the scrapbooking section in any craft store for the paper).  Folders and dividers are cheap at any office supply shop, as are plastic sleeves.  Buy yourself a 3 hole punch and you’re ready to get organized!

    Scrap Necklace

      As a seamstress, I always have scraps of fabric laying about.  Bits of things that are just too pretty to get rid of, but aren’t really big enough to make anything out of.  Having a baby helps with the problem, because their things are of course teenie tiny, but some scraps are even too small for baby clothing.

      You might have noticed that I really hate throwing things away when I can find a use for them.  In my mind, using stuff I already have means not spending money on those things, which means trips to the tropics!  ….it doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the process in my head.  (Just gonna keep reusing things til I wind up in Tahiti…it’s gotta work one of these days)
      This necklace is a great re-use for two things that otherwise would have gotten thrown away.  Scraps of fabric and an old necklace that I wasn’t wearing.
      Here’s what you need:
    Fabric, chain, jewelry rings, ribbon clamp ends, closure, scissors and jewelry tools
      Really sharp eyed readers may recognize that necklace.  We’ve seen it before.
    I’ve been staring at it for a month trying to decide how to use it
      So first things first, we want to cut our fabric and necklace into pieces.  We want 3 strips of each, we’re going to braid them together.
      You can sew the pieces together at the top if you’re worried about them coming loose, or just clamp all of them in the ribbon end and call it good.  
      Channel your inner friendship bracelet making 5th grader, safety pin the whole thing to your leg and braid it together.  Clamp the other end shut with the other ribbon end when you finish.
      Don’t be afraid to let the beads hang a little loosely through the braid.
      Attach your chain to one side and decide the length you want for your necklace.  I liked mine best at a choker length, so my chain is very short.
      Once you’ve attached your chain and closures, you’re ready to go!  Toss on a neutral top and let your new necklace shine!
      Do you plan to make this?  Do you want to help send me to Tahiti?  Either way, leave me a comment and let me know!


      This past Friday, G got his first haircut.  It was traumatic for all of us (the Mr. had taken the day off for our anniversary and was with us), but G was by far the most vocal about it.

      We sat and watched as the barber cut hair for about a half an hour before it was G’s turn.  He wasn’t happy about the idea of sitting in the chair by himself, so I let him sit on my lap.  He wasn’t happy about the cape.  He definitely wasn’t happy about the electric shavers.
      He was fine and smiling within 10 minutes of the whole ordeal being over.
      This is the part that’s traumatizing for me.
      After G’s cut was done, the barber gave us a “First Haircut Certificate”.  It reads:
    This is to certify that ….. has bravely met all of the requirements of receiving their first 
    haircut and has graduated from babyhood on the [21st] day of [October] in the year 
    of [2011].
      …wait a minute now.  I didn’t agree to that!  I’m having a hard enough time with the idea we just gave up his long hair (I knew the longer I let it grow, the harder the first hair cut would be on me)…nobody told me we were cutting off his babyhood!  
      I don’t like it.  That isn’t a reflection on the barber, or even the haircut.  But it makes my baby look like a little boy…and it turns out I’m not quite ready for that.
      Guess  I should get used to that, huh?

    Beautiful Tote Bag

      I can never have enough tote bags.  Part of how I keep myself sane and organized is by having a bag for everything.  I have a bag for school, a bag for the gym, a bag for the dance studio and a bag for the library.  Each one has specific things I need for that destination, so I don’t have to haul everything all the time (I prefer my purse to be small).  Sometimes, simply out of necessity of needing the bag right then, the bags are ugly and utilitarian…but how much nicer when they’re beautiful!

      I found this tutorial last spring and fell in love with it immediately.  I knew I had to make at least one.  Unfortunately, I’m yet to find a source for affordable, beautiful leather like she uses.  I did however find some incredible, heavy duty canvas from a local recycling resource that sells industrial scraps.
    My bag for the gym
      The tutorial itself is incredibly well written and easy to follow, so I won’t elaborate on it much.  The only modifications I made were to make my bag bigger and to insert an inside pocket (like this).  I also added a band of lining between the two canvas pieces for contrast (simply fold a small piece of fabric and insert it between the two fabrics before attaching them).
      Finding the rivets for this project was a little more difficult than I expected.  None of the sewing stores I checked had anything like what I was looking for.  The only place that seemed to have them was the hardware store.  Big box hardwares aren’t likely to carry them.  Find the store with 35,897 different types of screws. 
      I would definitely encourage purchasing extra rivets and grommets/eyelets to practice with, especially if you haven’t worked with them before.  Inserting them is in theory fairly simple, but getting them in cleanly takes some practice, and once they’re on your bag, they’re probably on there permanently.  
      I use the bag I’ve made all the time and couldn’t be happier with it.  …I think I’ll make another one soon!
      What about you?  Will you try this tutorial out?

    I’m a piggy, but a HEALTHY piggy.

      I don’t know about you, but as it gets colder, I always find myself wanting to dive face first into a pile of fattening foods.  Goodbye salads, helllllloooo cream laden cake-soup (that’s a thing, right?).

    Mm, delicious insulation
      While my body may be craving the extra padding to keep me warm this winter, I don’t really want to chunk out like a hibernating squirrel, so what’s a girl to do?  I guess there’s the whole “self control and denial” option…but that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.  I’d rather trick myself into thinking I’m eating something awful for me while eating something more or less healthy.
      Time for this stuff: 
    Thunder thighs, HERE I COME
      Looks like a delicious heart attack in a bowl, doesn’t it?  Here’s the thing: it’s mostly garbanzo beans.  YUP.  Tastes like cookie dough, nutritional make up of hummus (with a little bit of added sugar of course).
      I found the recipe here.  The girl who writes the blog is vegan, so this is supposed to be (though I question if most chocolate chips don’t contain some milk…), but there’s no reason it HAS to be.  I’ve made it as she has it written, using coconut milk and almond butter, but I don’t see any reason normal milk wouldn’t work perfectly well.  I used brown sugar as my sweetener.
      This is definitely my kind of cooking in that all you have to do is dump stuff into a food processor and you’re done.
      I personally add an extra Tbsp of oats, because I like my dough really thick.  When everything comes out of the blender, it will be really runny.  Mix the chocolate chips in and stick it in the fridge for a few hours.
      Once it has chilled, the dip will be nice and thick, just like cookie dough!  This is a great way to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating junk food while getting healthy bean proteins and fiber.  I eat it by the spoonful, but it’s really, really filling, so this bowl will probably last me a week.
      Have you found any good recipes for fooling yourself into eating healthy?  I’d love to try them!