Month: October 2012

Aquatic/Floral Stencil (Free Download)

  So ever since I finished G’s dinosaur fabric I’ve been wanting to make a stencil for creating fabric for me.  I’ve been doodling away, trying to create something that I love, but it just isn’t happening.  I did create a really awesome stencil…but, woe is me, it isn’t what I want for a winter hat.

  I figure it’s not going to be winter forever though, and you guys may have a perfect use for this stencil that isn’t occurring to me!
  This stencil is designed to work as a repeat and will look like this:
  I think it looks a little like starfish with bubbles or splashes of water around them.
  The floral print is the part you will cut out of your stencil, so to get this look you’d need to print white on green fabric, but I think this would be absolutely beautiful on a lightweight beach wrap or maybe a porch pillow.  Too bad for me that neither of those will be things I’ll be able to use for half a year!
  I’m sure that I’ll come back to this stencil and put it to use in the future, but for now, I hope that you guys can find a way to use it!

Earl Grey Hot Chocolate

  I have a new addiction.  Coffee addicts, you can keep your joe, I’m a tea kind of girl…and when you combine tea and chocolate?!?  Oh lordie.
  I’m going to share two different versions with you today.  The original that I found online and one that my Mr. made some modifications to the process to bring the tea flavor out further.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:                            Original version
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ tsp earl grey tea
6 squares dark chocolate, grated
sugar to taste
  Mix the milk and tea in a saucepan and gently heat without boiling. Continue heating for approximately 10 minutes. The milk will become slightly brown from the tea.  Remove the tea.
  Stir your grated chocolate into the milk, mixing until it melts. Serve warm.
More Tea Flavor Version
1 cup of water
4 Earl Grey Tea bags
3 cups milk
3 servings/packets of hot cocoa mix (Ovaltene, Hershey’s, ect)
~2 Tbsp chocolate, grated
  Boil your water and add the tea bags, steeping for 4 minutes.  Leaving the tea bags in the pan,  add three cups of milk.  Warm the milk to steaming and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  Remove the tea bags.  A skin of milk may come off with the bags.  Discard this
  Add 3 servings of your favorite hot cocoa mix (Ovaltene, Hershey’s syrup, etc.) and a few tablespoons of chocolate (chocolate chips, Hershey kisses, dark chocolate) to the pan. Stir until melted.
  A dash of Caramel sauce is a great way to finish it off.
  (Obviously this second version makes more…I don’t expect anybody will mind!)
  This hot chocolate is just amazing.  It has a wonderful, rich fruity flavor that I just can’t get over.  I don’t expect this would be a big hit with kids…but that’s probably for the best since even decaf tea has some caffeine in it.  Try it out at your next adult gathering, or just make yourself some for a grown up indulgence some chilly morning!

Why I Can’t Watch Real TV (and Why I Don’t Really Mind)

  Alright, I’m going to try and write this post without sounding like an insufferable, pompous penny-hole…because I know that’s what you’re thinking.  “Oh GAWD, she’s one of those ‘no tv’ freaks…”, but hey…I don’t do it because I think I’m better than those of you who are still on the television “grid” (come on, I purposely watch Spartacus, obviously I’m not doing this because I’m too high-brow…) and I don’t do it as some sort of statement against society… I just… don’t watch tv.

  Now, I guess I should explain, since in one sentence up there I said I don’t watch tv, but also admitted that I watch a terrible, terrible television show.  What I mean when I say that I don’t watch tv is that we don’t have tv service.  No cable, no local channels even…the only way our tv is hooked to the wall is where it plugs in for electricity.  Actually, now that I think about it…our tv can’t even receive service anymore.  We never upgraded after the switch that everybody else had to do for HD or digital or whatever it was.
  Obviously if you’re a thief checking blogs to see who has the fanciest tv to steal, we’re the hot target.  Good luck lifting our non-flat screen dinosaur.
  When I moved out of my parents house to go to college, buying a tv wasn’t high enough on my priority list to warrant spending the money.  I lived in the dorms and figured if I really wanted to watch something that badly, every single other room in that place was likely to have one.  The years went by and it just never turned into something I felt I needed to own.  I don’t think I got to a place where I lived somewhere I considered the television to be “mine” until my Mr. and I bought this tv in 2005 or 2006…and that was because cuddling while watching movies on a laptop computer screen was insanely difficult.  This television has never been connected to “real” television…we essentially use it as an enormous computer monitor.
  So when I say “I don’t watch tv”, I only kind of mean it.  We have a Netflix subscription, we have DVDs and we aren’t above hooking a computer up to the tv to watch something from Hulu or another streaming site.  What I really mean is “I don’t watch commercials” and “Spoilers really aren’t an issue, because by the time I get around to seeing the show you’re talking about I’ll have completely forgotten what you said” and also, a little bit “I don’t have the patience to wait for weeks in between episodes.  When I like something, I sit down and watch the entire series in a week.”
  There are disadvantages to this.  We never know what people are talking about when they say “oh I’m sure you’ve seen that commercial” (we haven’t), and barely knowing what Jersey Shore is, let alone if we’re horrified or intrigued by it does make small talk a bit more difficult, but for us at least, the advantages far outweigh the negatives.
  • When you have to make a conscious decision about what to watch, it’s easier to avoid sitting down and losing a whole afternoon.  
    • One of the houses I lived at in college did have a tv.  It was in the living room, and I did my best to avoid it, because I found, much to my horror, that if I sat in front of it, I would lose entire days to the thing.  There was nothing I particularly wanted to see, but I didn’t have to take any action to just keep the brainless entertainment going.  When you have to fill a cue with shows you want to see, it’s much easier to recognize that maybe you don’t want to watch tv so much as you just need a nap.

  • No commercials
    • Holy god…commercials are insane.  Growing up around normal tv I never recognized it (it’s really easy to get accustomed to them) but now…I can’t function in a room with “real” tv playing.  Commercials are loud, fast, way too much information…I just shut down and stare anymore.  Yeah, not watching them means I don’t know what the new hot thing I “have” to have is….but hey, not watching them means I don’t even know that I “have” to have it.

  • Ultimate parental control
    • I don’t ever have to worry about something inappropriate popping up after the show G is watching, nor do I have worry about a fight starting over him getting 3 minutes into the next show and wanting to finish it.  When I say one, half hour show, the tv shuts down after that episode and doesn’t play anything else til I tell it to.  Which sometimes I do.  Because sometimes Mommy needs more than half an hour of Bob the Builder to recover from a morning of playing.

  • Pause and Watching on my schedule
    • Ok, so I’m pretty sure most people who watch real tv anymore have Tivo, so this one isn’t a huge tv/no tv deal, but I love that I can fit the show to my life, instead of tailoring my life around a show.  Sorry networks, you’re not the boss of me.

  Like I said…there are some disadvantages.  If you’re a die hard sports fan?  Obviously our approach would be murder on you, but we’re more rock-climbing-and-boche-in-the-back-yard sports people than Fantasy Football types, so it works for us.

  I’m certainly not going to try and persuade any of you that you should be giving up your television (as I said, I’m trying to NOT be a penny-hole), but, if you’re finding yourself frustrated by a lack of quality time in your day…time to get to the gym, to read or to work on hobbies… it might be worth considering trying this method.
  I’m currently 12 years tv-free…and have no plans of plugging it back in.

Maternity Wrap Top

   Another sewing project completed, woohoo!  This is another Megan Nielsen top, just like the one I added the “leather” accents to.  I didn’t mess with this one (much), so it took way less time to complete.  I lengthened the sleeves, because I had it in my head this was going to be more sweater-like and didn’t want to mess with long sleeved shirts underneath peeking out.  It turned out tighter than that, so the shorter length would have been fine, but, eh, whatever.  I’m due in March…it’s not exactly going to be balmy for most of my pregnancy.
Maternity Wrap Top
  Man…amazing how much further my belly is out a month later!  On that note…anybody want to be my body double for my sewing projects for the next few months while I get cruise liner sized?  No?  *sighs* I simply don’t understand why it takes 30 self portraits to get one that I’m not making a goofy face in.  Lets blame hormones.  Until I have the baby anyhow…then we can blame lack of sleep.  Or global warming.  Just so long as it’s somehow not my fault when I look like a moron.
  Anyways, this top is kind of hilarious.  It looks darling on, once you finish wrapping the 18 feet (no, literally, nine feet on each side) of knit band around yourself, but I have to admit that I feel a bit like I’ve grown a set of really unwieldy tentacles when getting dressed in it.  I knock stuff over, I get my legs tangled, the bands get knotted…it’s like a solo game of Twister.
  As trying as it is to get into, the crazy long bands are actually kind of genius.  No matter how big I get (and if you guys remember my 9 month picture from my how to pick non-maternity clothing post, you know I’m gonna get big) I can just change the way I wrap this top and still have a flattering, form conscious shirt.  Even if the form it’s conscious of is “watermelon with arms”.  I also love that I’ll still be able to wear it, without any alterations, after the baby is born.  Can’t beat that!
  If you decide to try out this pattern, be warned that cutting the pieces is a bit trickier than with most.  So long as you actually pay attention to the fabric width requirements and yardage and all that, you’ll be peachy.  But if you’re a rebel like me and decide to ignore the whole “use 60″ wide fabric” thing and just pull something out of your stash without measuring…you’ll probably end up with more seams in your sashes.  Not a huge deal, but it does make wrapping so you don’t wind up with a Franken-seam across your belly a little more challenging.
  If you get through the cutting alright, you’re golden.  This pattern is a breeze to assemble.
  Now…what should I sew next?
  New here?  You can find my other sewing projects here, but I do lots of other stuff too!  Click here for my most recent creative attempt.

All Day Spaghetti Sauce

  Today’s recipe is for my favorite spaghetti sauce.  Another recipe I’m stealing from my mom’s bag of tricks, this sauce is thick enough you can (and I often do) eat it from a bowl without any noodles.  Don’t be scared off by the “all day” aspect, this involves a similar amount of work as most slow cooker recipes.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
1.5 lbs stewing or ground beef*
1 lb boneless pork, cubed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup onion, chopped
16 oz tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp sweet basil
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp baking soda
*Either works, but using the ground beef gives a thicker, more satisfying sauce
  Start by browning your beef and pork in your oil along with your bay leaf.  Add your garlic and onion once the meat is browned.  When the onion and garlic begin to soften, add your tomato paste and tomato sauce, adding 1 can of water for each can of tomato product.  Add all of your remaining ingredients except for baking soda and allow to simmer for 3-4 hours.
  In the last 10 minutes (about how long it will take you to cook your spaghetti noodles), add your soda.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve over noodles.
  I love this spaghetti sauce.  I really don’t make it as often as I should.  It makes for a great, satisfying dinner and the extra freezes incredibly well.  Everybody here enjoys it, and you just can’t beat a big, hearty bowl of spaghetti for comfort food.
**As a note, this is getting the “low carb” tag, but obviously it becomes not-so-low-carb if you put it on top of a giant plate of pasta.  I’ve been known to eat this sauce with no pasta.  Be restrained with your noodles if you’re trying to keep your carbohydrates in check.**

Make your Own Transluscent Powder substitute

  We’re suffering from a bad case of the crud over here.  G’s nose is runny and not feeling good is making him generally snotty.  I’ve mostly fought off the symptoms so far, but am still run down from it…and from dealing with the fall out from the little boy.

  So no new crafts this week, but I thought I’d walk you through what I use instead of store bought foundation powder.
  And now in the easiest explanation ever, I get to say, in one word: cornstarch.  If you want the whole back story, click through the link above, but basically what it comes down to is that another blogger noticed that several of her favorite mineral makeups, the vast majority of the ingredient list boiled down to, well, just cornstarch.
  I’m super pasty white, so plain ol’ translucent works perfectly for me.  I don’t add anything to my corn starch.  It works beautifully.  Keeps shine to a minimum, and frankly it feels a lot nicer to me than most store bought makeup anyhow.  If you’re not quite so fair skinned, you can always add some tinted powder to the mix or cinnamon, if you want to keep it all kitchen based.
  A little tiny bit goes a long way with this.  I usually scoop about a teaspoon into my dish and it lasts me most of a month.
  And for those of you who are wondering…between the baking soda for the face scrubs, the corn starch for my makeup and all the other random bowls and bottles of concoctions from the kitchen that I rub on my head, yes, my bathroom does look a bit like a mad scientist’s lab.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Chicken

  It’s time for another slow cooker recipe!  This past winter I’d made slow cooker meatballs with cranberry sauce, and they were awesomely delicious.  I was hoping this would prove to be just as good.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
2.5 to 3 lbs chicken thighs or drumsticks
1 16 oz can whole cranberry sauce
2 Tbsp dry onion soup mix
2 Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
  Start by placing your chicken on the bottom of your crockpot.  Mix together your remaining ingredients and pour over top.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2.5-3 hours.
  When I made the meatballs using jellied cranberry sauce, it melted really nicely into a gooey, sweet sauce.  I’m not certain if this time it didn’t melt for me because of it being a different type of sauce or because I, for once, used low heat instead of high, but we wound up removing the chicken at the end of cooking and heating up the sauce separately to get it to spread well enough.
  All told, this was good.  It wasn’t eat-until-your-stomach-hurts addictive like the meatballs were, but still a worthwhile crockpot recipe.  Everybody ate their dinner happily and we’ll being trying it again…probably with jellied cranberry sauce next time.

Send Chocolate.

  I’d request wine…but since I can’t really drink it, chocolate will have to do.

  This child is driving me insane.
  I know…look at him…all “GASP!  You couldn’t possibly mean me, could you Mama?!?”, but I do.
  We’re potty training using this ebook…and it’s going fairly well, but, unsurprising to anyone who has ever actually potty trained a kid, is driving me bonkers.  He does perfectly for days on end…and then all the sudden will have a day where the potty is apparently the enemy.  If he gave me a reason that was less cryptic than “I CAN’T try to use the potty” it would be less infuriating. 
  Potty training wouldn’t be quite so rough if I at least got a break during the day while he took a nap, but in a move designed to jointly allow him to come ask for help going to the potty at night and prepare him for his move to a big boy bed when 2.0 arrives, we took the rail off his crib…and he now has decided he doesn’t actually need a nap about half the days of the week.  His behavior on the evenings he has skipped his nap suggests otherwise.  Upon being let out of his room after a sleep-free “quiet time” yesterday, his first comment to me was “I’m tired.”
  …do you think Godiva sponsors mothers?
  The final nail in the coffin of my patience has been the belly attacks.  For whatever reason, the last few weeks, G has been full-on, elbows and knees, stabbing me in the quickly-growing, rather tender guts.  Like, every time he comes within five feet of me.  Apparently he’s decided that since his future sibling is a baby brother he gets to rough house with him?  Does anybody make the pregnant belly equivalent of an athletic cup?
  I’m exhausted.  I love this funny, sweet, little man, but dear lord I’m about to sell him to the circus.
  Do you think they’d pay me in Ghirardelli? 

Making Fleece Lined Pants

  Where on Earth do my weeks keep going?  Here it is another Friday and I’ve only just barely finished the fleece lined pants I mentioned to you last week!

  I originally made these with the intention of them being a part of G’s Halloween costume.  Michigan Halloweens are typically frigid, and snow is most certainly not unheard of during trick or treating.  I always hated as a kid that I’d wind up having to put a coat over my costumes and effectively ruin them to keep from coming down with pneumonia or something, so I’ve tried to find ways to keep G warm while still staying in character.
  After his Dopey costume turned out so well last year I had grand ambitions of creating a Sir Topum Hat costume to go with his recent Thomas the Train obsession.  With a week and a half to go and a tuxedo coat, vest and (most challenging and important of all) a top hat yet to make, I suspect he may be going as something a little easier to throw together this year.  Sorry kiddo.  Mommy loves you, but she also needs to sleep on occasion.
  But, costume or not, cold weather is coming, so this pair of pants is going into rotation to keep my little guy’s legs toasty.
  If you want to make your own pair, it’s fairly simple.  Cut your pant pieces out of both your exterior fabric and your fleece.  Your fleece pieces should be a hair smaller than the exterior pieces.  Sew your leg and side seams as if you are constructing two separate pairs of pants.
  Before inserting your elastic into the waistband or hemming the cuffs, flip your fleece pants inside out and place them inside of your exterior pants.  All of your exposed seams should be concealed this way.  Join your waistbands together and fold over elastic to finish as normal.
  To address the hems, you can do two things.  Shorten your fleece legs and allow them to hang freely inside the leg (will result in a less stiff, bulky looking pant) or fold it directly into your hem.  Either way will result in nice, warm little legs, but the first may require some tacking by hand to keep bunching away.
  If you have any questions about how I did any of this, as always, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese

  I’ve had to give the credit for my baked mac and cheese and my Tuscan mac and cheese to other parties.  I didn’t come up with them and am not even going to try and pretend I did.  This one though…this one I developed, completely on my own.  (Don’t worry, it’s been taste tested by many, many people, it’s not actually lethal)

  The summer I started dating my Mr. I worked at a nicer restaurant.  They had a pasta dish that inspired this recipe…but since my job was most definitely not in the kitchen, I had to wing it trying to recreate it.
  Here’s what we’re making:
As a note, typically I add some chicken to this dish,
 but it works without it as well if you’re in a hurry or want vegetarian.
  Here’s what you need:
1/2 lb shell pasta (I like these best because they catch the cheese sauce so well)
7 oz smoked gouda cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp butter
1/2-1 cup milk
Cooked chicken breast, cut into chunks (optional)
  Start by boiling your noodles.  When they are cooked to your preferred tenderness, drain them and return them to the pan with the butter.  Working over medium low heat, add a small amount of milk and mix.  Slowly add your grated cheese to your pasta, stirring constantly and adding milk whenever your cheese begins to be stringy.  You want to keep it a cheesy, creamy sauce.  1/2-1 cup of milk is an estimate of how much I use.  Keep mixing until all of your cheese is in the pan.  If you want to add chicken, you can either mix it in at this point or serve it on top.  Either way, serve warm.
  This is not an every day dish.  It is incredibly indulgent in that “you can feel your heart begging for mercy after you eat it” kind of way.  I make it once or twice a year, tops…but it’s always a huge hit when I do.  Honestly, I don’t think anyone who has had this recipe has not liked it.
  Try it out.  Maybe you’ll be the first.  I doubt it.