Month: December 2011

A farewell to 2011

  As we finish out the last hours of 2011 I thought I’d take a look back at the year.  It has been an especially busy one and we’ve seen lots of changes.

December 31, 2010 December 15, 2011
  G has grown from a teensie baby to a wild little boy.  He took his first steps as 2011 was just beginning, celebrated his first birthday, rode on a bike for the first time, started occasionally going to daycare, started feeding himself, had his first haircut, went trick-or-treating for the first time, played in the snow for the first time and started really, truly communicating.  Every day he picks up new words and skills and I’m continually amazed by how quickly my “baby” has disappeared and how fast he’s become a little man.
G gives his new cousin a kiss
  The Mr. and I had lots going on as well.  We celebrated 5 years of marriage and 8 years of being together.  We marked a full year of having survived parenthood (yes, it’s great G is one, but I’m pretty sure parents should get a medal for having made it through the first year without losing their minds).  We mourned the move of close friends, (Pittsburgh, we’re not forgiving you) but had a great time taking a wine tasting trip with them up North. 
Mr. tries out an antique truck at one of the wineries
  The Mr.’s dedication at his job has gotten the huge project he’s been working on approved and the company recently broke ground.  He has done a ton of work around the house, from gardening to insulating, to electrical, plumbing and general handy-man-ness that has made an incredible difference in making our house a home.  He has been enormously supportive and patient about taking care of G from the moment he gets off work’s clock while I take on my many, many projects.
A nest of baby robins above our back door this summer
  You, of course, have been privy to many of my projects, but I’ve had plenty going on behind the scenes as well.  I founded g.c.b. at the start of the year, switching the focus of my previously bridal gown based company to baby clothing.  I re-stocked my etsy shop after a few years of it sitting idle and my line was picked up by two local stores.  I took my GMAT this summer and was accepted into Eastern Michigan’s graduate program for accounting.  I returned to class this fall and did so well that I was offered a position as an online tutor for statistics (which I will be starting next semester).  I discovered zumba and have become addicted.  I noticed (after two years of being in the house…clearly I’m observant) that we have a mulberry tree in our back yard, and found that both G and I love mulberries.  I ran for city council and lost, but made a lot of great connections in the process.  I founded a moms’ meet-up group and have met lots of new friends.  I tried (and partially succeeded) to simplify and organize our lives.  And of course, I also started writing this blog!
Clematis climbs up a trellis we built this summer
  It has been an incredible year and I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings us.
Here’s wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

Cuddly slippers in progress

  So you remember how I said I’m one of those people who waits til the last minute with Christmas?  Yeah, I’m still working on gifts.  Oops.

  This week’s sewing project is a work in progress.  I’m making slippers like these for my nieces.  Don’t worry, I warned their mom so they won’t accidentally see this post.  I expected to have them done in plenty of time to put this up, but a couple of things imploded on me that made finishing them not happen.  G, for instance, has apparently decided he wants pink slippers and keeps stealing them while I’m trying to work.
  Here are the slippers so far:
  My skills at making critters that look like what they’re supposed to look like needs work.  The little slippers were originally going to be kitties.  With the tongues and ears sewn on I decided that, nope, they were dogs. The bigger slippers were gonna be bunnies.  Right now I’m sorta thinking it looks more like a horse.
  Either way, I think the girls will like them, and they’ll keep their toes nice and toasty.
  If I ever finish them.

Blue cheese party dip

  With New Years parties looming, I thought a party dip would be an appropriate recipe today.

  This dip is quick and easy and incredibly addictive if you like blue cheese.
  Here’s what you need:
8oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz blue cheese
approximately 1/4 onion, chopped
  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix.  I find that smashing the ingredients with a fork works best.  Serve spread on crackers.
  With the combination of blue cheese and raw onions this mix should probably be called “Werewolf Breath” dip, but I absolutely love it.  Just make sure that when you serve it, everybody is close enough friends that nobody is going to be too offended by dip-breath!
  BTW parents, my stinky baby loves this!
This post is linked to Polish the Star‘s Link up Party

Working towards minimalism. Or at least fire-safety.

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through my house
not an inch of floor showing, no room for a mouse.
The stockings were dumped out unceremoniously
and the baby had romped through it all with great glee.
  After the gifts were opened this year our house was trashed.
  …ok…BEFORE the gifts were opened this year our house was trashed.
  I thought about making “continuing to streamline our house” my new years resolution.  But then I realized two things.  One, it’s kind of cheating to make a resolution to keep doing something you’re already doing, and two, I don’t actually make New Years resolutions.
  So, since it’d be silly to wait until after the weekend for something that isn’t a resolution anyhow, and because it was driving us both crazy, the Mr. and I spent the entire day paring down the stuff in our house.
  I started with G’s toys.  He has a ton, and he only plays with 3 or 4 of them.  Probably because he can’t find any of them except the ones that are right on top.  Everything got categorized into types.  Soft toys. Noisy toys.  Balls.  Blocks.  Cars. 
  Once I’d assembled my giant piles, I culled everything down to 3 or 4 items from each.  My little boy loves cars, but he doesn’t need 29 of them at once.  It may seem like he has 37 arms some days, but the last time I checked he still only has the two.  I put 3 boxes full of toys into the attic.  He still has way more than he needs, but at least now it can all be put away at the end of the day.
  The Mr. spent the whole day in the basement.  His workbench in the laundry room has been a low priority since we moved in.  There wasn’t an effective way to organize things so we just kept piling tools on top.  And then when the top filled up we started piling them around it.  It meant a whole lot of frustration every time we needed a battery or a screwdriver.  He did a fabulous job.  Everything is off the floor and just about everything is off the workbench.
  After I finished with G’s toys, I moved on to my closet.  I pulled enough jewelry out of my stash to fill the bottom of a Kleenex box.  Then I moved on to my clothing.
  That’s three of the four and a half diaper boxes full of clothing and shoes I’m going to be donating.
  I’m a terrible clothes horse.  And a bargain hunter.  And I make my own clothing.  After taking out close to 5 boxes of clothes, I still have more than enough to wear.  But at least now there’s room to see what I have.  I’ve been really inspired by this section of Small Notebook and would love to get there.  Eventually.
  We still have a long way to go.  The room I’m sitting in while I write this looks like a bomb went off in it, and I’m not sure that our kitchen will every have less than 3 billion cooking “toys” in it.  But it’s a start.
How about you?  Do you plan to simplify as you move into the new year?

Shimmering party earrings

  This time of year I find myself even more drawn to sparkly things than usual.  That means something from a girl who has been known to stop walking along the road to admire shards of broken glass.  So, in the interest of making sure everybody has a little something shiny to wear the next few nights, I thought I’d share a tutorial for making some party earrings.

I don’t need an “elf on the shelf”.
  I have a scary, disembodied, albino mannequin head to make sure everybody behaves.
  Here’s what you need to make them:
Fishhook earring bases, chain scraps, lots and lots of metal loops,
 wire working tools and sequins in your choice of color

  These earrings look a lot more complicated than they are, so I thought I would show them constructed, as I think it will be more clear how they go together that way.
  First, construct the sequinned portion of the earrings.  To do this, start with a small jewelry loop with one sequin on it.  Attach a larger jewelry loop with two sequins (one on either side of the loop) and twist closed.  Attach further large loops (with two sequins on each) until you have a chain of 6 loops.
  I found that the best way to ensure you don’t lose sequins left and right is to over-twist the circle until it folds back onto itself like a keychain ring.
  Once you have created 6 sets of sequin chains, clip two lengths of chain.  Mine are 3.5″ and 4″ long.  Secure the chains to your earring bases and attach your sequin loop chains in alternating order down them.  When you are finished your earrings should look like this:
  Throw them on and go ring in the new year!  
  I hope this tutorial was clear enough.  If not, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help clarify anything that isn’t!
This post is linked to Embellishing Life‘s Craft Catwalk

Just Add Beer Chicken

  Today’s recipe is one that I ripped out of a magazine at some point.  I cut off all the identifying information around it and googling “Just Add Beer Chicken” isn’t bringing up the recipe, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
1 Tbsp butter
2 chicken drumsticks
2 chicken thighs
Salt and Pepper
1 leek
1/2 c. onion, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 small potatoes, cut into cubes
1 c. light lager beer
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. vegetable broth
  Melt your butter in a medium sized pot.  Season your chicken with salt and pepper and place skin down in pan.  Cook for 5 minutes or until skin begins to turn brown and crispy.  Then turn over and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove and set aside.
  As usual, we’re one step in and I’ve already messed with the recipe.  Thighs and drumsticks are typically cheaper cuts of meat, so if you’re going to be buying meat either way, they’re the way to go.  I already had chicken though, so I used frozen chicken breasts.
  Chop the white part of your leek into bite sized pieces and discard the green part.  Saute in remaining butter and chicken juices with onion and garlic for 4 minutes.
  Return chicken to the pan and add potatoes, bay leaves and carrot.
  Add beer, vinegar and broth.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and serve.
  This chicken has a great, sour flavor thanks to the vinegar and the beer.  Fans of salt and vinegar chips are sure to like it.  If you’re not watching your carb intake, the broth is especially good soaked up with a slice of crusty bread.
  Hope you like it!

Holiday traditions

  When my little brother and I were younger, we always woke up ridiculously early on Christmas morning.  I know my parents had a rule about how early we were “allowed” to be awake.  I’m pretty sure the rule was only in place to ensure they got enough sleep, not out of a misguided attempt to actually keep us in bed.  By 5am we were almost always both wide awake.  We’d sneak out of our rooms, down the hallway and into the living room where the tree was.  

  We would spend the excruciating hours until dawn rearranging the presents into piles, sorted by recipient.  We would attempt to figure out the contents of our stockings without removing anything.  We had figured out the hard way that once it came out, it never went back in again.  Clearly Santa/Dad had some kind of magic to make everything fit.
  G isn’t quite old enough yet that he has Christmas fever.  We’ll be opening our presents tonight, rather than waiting til the morning to (we hope) ensure a laid back Christmas morning before traveling to visit family.  The change of date won’t be significant to him yet, but I can’t wait for him to start caring about the traditions, to, hopefully, inherit some of the crazed passion for Christmas his Mama has always had.
  I took him out to drive around our town and look at the lights on houses the other night.  The Mr. thinks I’m crazy, but he more or less tolerates my seasonal eccentricities.  It was raining.  Not the white Christmas the songs talk about for sure, but G and I both oohed and aahed at the lights we drove past.  He’s in a phase right now where he’ll say “uh huh” to pretty much anything you ask him, so I can’t be sure he actually cared about anything other than the toy he had in his arms while we drove, but at least once he pointed out a house to me, saying “Ooh hot! hot!” while pointing to the electric candles in their windows.
  I can’t wait to open presents with him tonight.  Not because he needs anything more (he really doesn’t), but because it’s so much fun watching him get things.  Finally understand how things work and what they are and what’s going on.  He wasn’t sure what to do with his presents last year.  I expect this time he’ll catch on pretty quickly.
  I’m absolutely not wishing time away.  I’m loving every moment watching my little monster grow up, but I can’t wait until the Christmas I catch him sneaking out of his room to go sit and wait for dawn.  And maybe I’ll join him.
What is your favorite childhood Christmas memory?

Drawstring waisted top for Christmas

  It took forever, but my top for Christmas is finally done.

No, my arm is not that skinny, I just need way more practice at photoshop.
Also, I promise I don’t have a mullet.  See above mention of photoshop skills.
  Don’t believe me it’s taken forever?  This shirt is the one I made the pattern for when I taught you guys how to make your own patterns
  It’s also the fabric I was making bias tape out of with the cardstock bias tape makers.
  And I’ve been wanting to make it since before I wore it for my homemade shampoo post.
  Sleeveless isn’t exactly appropriate for the end of December in Michigan, but I figure it will be cute with a black top layered underneath…and when something takes 3 months to get completed, I can’t help myself, it has to be worn right then, no matter how impractical.
  What have you been working on?  Anything ridiculously long term like this?
  I’d love to see your projects!

Spicy Peached Pork

  This past summer the Mr. and I bought a half of a pig from a local farm here in town.  It’s heritage, Tamworth pork, which means it’s higher in fat than the pork you typically get at the store and far more flavorful.  Half a pig is a lot of meat though.  Our chest freezer was packed to the top right after we picked it up.  I try to put pork on the menu at least once a week so we use it quickly.

  This is a new recipe we tried:
  Both the Mr and I really enjoyed this and it will definitely be made again.  G wasn’t crazy about it, but at least enjoyed picking the pork out to munch on.
  Here’s what you need to make it:
1 lb pork tenderloin or boneless pork chops, cubed
2 tbsp fajita seasoning
4 tsp vegetable oil
1 c. chunky salsa
1/3 c. peach preserves
2 tsp jalapeno pepper, chopped
rice to serve
  In a bowl, toss pork cubes with fajita seasoning until evenly coated.  Heat vegetable oil in a large, nonstick skillet and cook pork over medium high heat until browned.
  Stir in salsa, preserves and jalapeno pepper.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer about 12 minutes, until pork is tender and no longer pink.  Serve over rice.
  *While cooking this, I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil.  Typically, unless there is a specific reason I know of that vegetable oil needs to be used, I will choose olive oil instead.
  *I also lowered the amount of jalapeno to make it more baby friendly.
  *The recipe calls for peach preserves, and that’s what I used this time, but I don’t see any reason apricot preserves wouldn’t work out.  Perfect if you have some left after making 3 ingredient chicken.