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Friday, July 30, 2010

Last Day of Preschool

Today was a bittersweet day for me. It was Alexander's last day of pre-kindergarten. He's so excited about starting kindergarten and I'm excited, too. I think. My little boy is growing up and kindergarten is suddenly a glaring reality that he's not a baby anymore.
The school that he'll be starting is a public school but you have to apply to get in through a lottery system. We're lucky to live in the preference zone so Alexander didn't have any trouble getting accepted. The school is special in that they have a Spanish immersion program. The kids will learn math and science (I think) in Spanish. I think it will be a great experience for both of our kids.
But back to his last day...we loved Alexander's teacher, Ms. Sharon! She is fun and great with the kids. Alexander told me he wished that she were going to teach his kindergarten class too! We decided to spoil Ms. Sharon with her favorite strawberry cake balls but I wanted to embellish them this time! I got my idea from Bakerella's blog, specifically, this Mother's Day post. Mine didn't turn out nearly as clean as hers but I was happy with them and I think that Ms. Sharon liked them too! I put them in a Ball jar wrapped with a little fabric from the skirt that I made for Charlotte tonight. Photos of that below!

Cake pops!!
I also wanted to do something to add to Ms. Sharon's classroom for next year and I found out that she was doing a rock-n-roll, guitar theme. How perfect that I happened to have a scrap of piano key fabric and one of Alexander's old t-shirts, both of which I made into pillows. I also made a table cloth and napkins to go on the table in the play kitchen area of the classroom. I totally forgot to take a picture of everything until we gave it to Ms. Sharon so I took a quick one in the classroom. Here's Charlotte modeling her new outfit. I finished it this evening so it'll be ready to wear, perhaps to church on Sunday!And, last but not least, I put together a little skirt for Charlotte tonight. I wanted something to go with a little t-shirt that I picked up on clearance at one of the little boutique shops in town, Snap Kids. I didn't use a pattern or tutorial this time, just sortof made it up as I went along. There are some great tutorials out there, just google "twirl skirt tutorial" and you'll get a whole list. If you've made a couple of things, I think that something like this is no big deal. Cute!
I couldn't resist sharing this one with you. Isn't she cute? (She had her mouth full but this cheeky look is a normal one for her!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


A little bit of monkey business!

It totally cracks me up that British English says "Zed" when referring to the letter "Z." I don't know why it makes me chuckle, it's just one of those things that gets me giggling and I can't stop (one of the toys that we purchased in England sings the Alphabet song and this is what has me giggling about Zed). So today, we went to the Zed-O-O. That's ZOO for all my American friends and family. We went with my friend, Angie, whom I've been acquainted with since before either of us were married or had children. Now she has three kids and we're reconnecting because our kids seem to get along and we do as well. I hate that she lives all the way in Spring Hill (about 35-40 minutes from here) but love that we get to get glimpses of each other at church and can arrange to meet up around town.We had a great time running around the zoo; we even got to pet an albino wallaby (I was just as excited as the kids, hence this very bad photo of them trying to pet the little guy. He was very friendly.We also got to hear a little talk about the fish tanks and see the piranhas being fed. I actually didn't get to see them being fed because there were a ton of kids crowded around the area and I thought it might be rude to push them out of the way. Can I help it if I'm interested too? Alexander had a great view and said it was really cool. He chose this photo for me to post because there is a large turtle just above his head. Never mind that he's no where near looking at the camera.
Tonight, after the kids were in bed, I finished this little outfit for Charlotte. I still have to do a few finishing touches but have to wait until my model tries it on to ensure that it fits correctly. I can't wait to get it on her! The top is made from the same pattern as this pink dress and the capri pants are from the Portabellopixie ruffle pants pattern. I bought my pattern at Children's Corner because it's a local business (and because it's really convenient to my house). It was my first time trying the portabellopixie pattern and I think it went pretty well. There are things that I will do differently next time but I'm happy with this result, especially since the two fabrics were purchased in the remnant room at Textile fabric. I just got lucky that they were both there on the same day. The fabrics have two different designers but seem to go together perfectly. One thing that I'd like to mention...I'm beginning to think that having a serger might be really cool. Do you have one and if yes, do you use it? What brand do you have? What sort of projects do you use it for (yikes, ending this sentence with a preposition...Sorry, Mr. Bracher). Several of my latest projects have mentioned that they're much easier to do when you have a serger. Hmmm...
My birthday (September, start saving now!) and Christmas are coming up...
And one more thing. I'm feeling better. Peter still had to take Nyquil tonight so I guess he's still under the weather. Alexander is feeling better but still has a cough. Oh, and he dropped the stepstool on his toe tonight. OUCH!! I think the Scooby Doo bandaid helped.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baby gifts and Huntsville trips

I have had good intentions ever since I found out that Alexander's preschool teacher (from last year) was pregnant. I knew I wanted to make something for her but I didn't really know what I was going to do. Then, I rediscovered some fabric that I fell in love with at Joann. Immediately, I knew that Rachel's baby needed some boutique-style burp clothes and a matching bib. I didn't feel like buying a pattern for a bib and I figured that I could find some sort of tutorial on the net about making the burp cloths. I purchased some terry cloth from Joann. This is a great way to save a little money (those burp cloths that you buy at target and babies r us aren't cheap) and you can make them whatever size you want. Our friend, Emily, had given us a burp cloth (purchased but handmade) that had a terry backing and I loved it! So, here's the tutorial that I found when I got home. Of course, I wanted to use all of the fabrics together so I modified the 'pattern' a little bit to dress these up a bit. I used one of Charlotte's bibs to make a pattern for the gift bib. To do this, I laid the bib down and traced around it. Then, I added about 3/4 inches
around the whole tracing (this is for the seam allowances). I've discovered this wonderful thing called top stitching. Check it can make a project look very finished!!

The three coordinating burp cloths (one embellished with pompoms, one plain fabric, and one with a thin strip of coordinating ribbon).
The bib is reversible but I forgot to take a picture of the back. The backing fabric is the same as the plain fabric burp cloth above.I still haven't finished the dress for Charlotte made from Peter's shirt. I've had a few distractions!
~On Friday afternoon, my friend, Amanda, and I went to Huntsville, Alabama to visit the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion. Unfortunately, we didn't go to sew (this time). We knew that they had a good sale going on so we made the quick trip and purchased a few fun items to add to our sewing collection. I think Amanda really wanted me to see what it was like so I would be game to go to the classes next year (I'm SOLD!). On the way home, we stopped in Fayetteville, TN at Sirs Fabric, a great discount fabric store. There were lots of choices and I hope to go back to choose some fabric to make drapes for our front room (some day). I highly recommend stopping in if you're in the area (note that it's about 25 minutes off of I65 so it's not a quick jaunt).
~Both of the boys in my family are sick. It's a sore throat, cough, runny nose, grouchy sort of sick so I haven't had much time to do anything except keep up with the family.
~Charlotte has woken up in the night 4 nights in a row. We don't know if she's teething or if she has a sore throat as well. She's not eating very well (unusual) and she's chewing her fingers a lot. I suppose we'll figure it out soon. Either teeth will appear. Or they won't.
~I think I'm getting sick too...I hope not...but my throat is starting to hurt. We ate a bunch of kiwi-fruit tonight, they're high in Vitamin C, to aid in fending off the virus.
Thanks, y'all, for reading and for the great feedback. It's so fun to find out that you're keeping up with us!

Monday, July 19, 2010


Well, I didn't sew all weekend. I missed it! So, I spent all of Charlotte's nap time working on a new project. No photos yet since I'm nowhere near complete but I thought I'd let y'all know about this fun idea. I'm making a dress for Charlotte using one of Peter's old button down work shirts. Don't worry, I didn't find this idea and then go shopping in the closet. Peter offered me a couple of his shirts because he's retiring them from his daily use. So, then, I set out to find something to do with them. I decided upon this dress for the first shirt. It's going ok so far but I've just hit the step where the experienced blogger states, "This is not the easiest step..." I've decided to pick up there tomorrow when I'm fresh and well rested.

For those that wonder what the kids do while I cook...

Maybe you can't tell but they've gotten every metal pan and miscellaneous other things out of the cabinets and are banging on them with wooden spoons.
With all that noise, it's a wonder that our dinner still turned out looking like this:

Thanks to Melissa D. for her input on making salsa, I made some yummy salsa last night with our CSA tomatoes. Since we had salsa leftover, I thought that it would be a great night for Mexican. I threw some frozen chicken breasts in the oven with a (freshly canned) jar of tomatoes and their juice and let them bake on 300 for several hours. I also added a little olive oil and some Mexican-type spices. Cumin is probably my favorite spice. Can't get enough of that one. Having all the juice from the tomatoes in the pan made the chicken really juicy and flavorful (thanks to Melissa, again, for giving me the tomato and chicken idea; she told me that she mixes the juice from the tomatoes and spices with pulled rotisserie chicken, a great idea if you want some good flavor quickly).

And now starring, Alexander.
Yes, that's him. With short hair. Spiked in the middle. It's called a faux-hawk! When his hair started curling up in the back, we decided that it was time for a trim. However, he had it in his head (or maybe just in his hair) that he wanted to get a faux-hawk like some of the adults that we know. I told him that it would be fine and we went to Head's Up to get it cut. When the stylist asked me what I wanted, Alexander turned to her and said, "I'd like a faux-hawk, please." She looked at me, surprised, and asked if it was ok to cut "all this hair off"?!! It's just hair and it'll grow back. He looks pretty cute, although I've had a hard time catching him while it is styled. I'm sure you'll have to endure plenty more photos of him in the days and weeks to come.

My tutu model finally tried this on while I was at home. She tried it yesterday but I wasn't home and Peter didn't take any photos. Charlotte spun around and seems to enjoy the "pretty" frills but is still getting used to it. Of course, I did have to choose a day when her dress doesn't match, her hair is crazy, and half her lunch is on her face. This is our reality! I had a few lengths of the tulle left so Charlotte and I put together a tutu for her baby doll today. After it was finished and on the baby, Charlotte ran around shouting/singing (she's not a quiet girl, guess she gets that from her Daddy! ha.), "Baby, pretty!! Baby, pretty!! La, la, la." She loves to sing and her favorite book is still, "The Wheels on the Bus."

I just looked at the calendar and realized that Alexander has less than a month before he starts kindergarten. Sad. Summer is disappearing and my little boy is growing up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Recyclable Gift Bags and 10 minute tutus

Whoa, slow down! That's two posts in one day! Just wanted to alert you to this great website, Free Bag Patterns! It has tons of links to different tutorials/patterns to make all sorts of bags. I wanted to make a little tote bag to use as a gift bag for a friend's 2nd birthday. I ended up making this one, although I modified it because I wanted to use some scraps that I had on hand. I just made it a little smaller and didn't take the time to add any closures. If I make it for myself sometime, I would definitely add the big button because it makes it so cute. It's worked out really well and I think the tutorial was great! It will make a great purse for our little friend, or her mom can reuse it as a gift bag for someone else!

Any thoughts on other ways to "wrap" presents in ways that can be reused? I'm tired of paper gift bags. I know they're easy but where's the creativity in the wrapping? I'm sure that my grandmother (Gram) would dislike the paper gift bag trend. She was quite the present wrapper! All of the corners would be perfectly even and each package would have bows or ribbons strategically placed. I miss that sort of wrapping!

Are any of your little girls obsessed with dress-up, dancing, tutus, or prettiness in general? If yes, then do I have great news for you! I've found a great tutorial on how to make a no-sew tutu (aside from one small stitch across the elastic waistband). I'm hoping to collect some dress-up items for Charlotte. She's already enjoying wearing bracelets and my shoes so I'm sure that she'll get into tutus eventually, especially if they are readily available! While this tutorial says that you can get this done in 10-15 minutes, it probably took me more like 35. However, I sat in front of the tv and found it rather enjoyable to loop all of the tulle around the waistband. When my little model wakes up, I'll see if she'll model this for you!

Time management = Fail

Two weeks ago: Oh, sure, Alexander, I'd be happy to make some chaps for your cowboy day at school. I found this really easy and free tutorial online and I'm sure it'll be no problem.
Fast-forward to last night: It took me 30 minutes to turn the tube for the waistband right-side out. I probably should have started this project before 9 pm the night before. But, I didn't want to let my little cowboy down. So, I pressed on and was able to make the chaps and a vest to complete the look. Alexander was THRILLED when he came down this morning. I think this costume beat out the pirate outfit in his opinion. I loved that I didn't have to buy a pattern! The vest is made out of felt so no hemming was required! The tutorial that I used didn't include the fringe on the chaps but that was so easy! I did that out of felt as well so I wouldn't have to worry about fraying.

I don't know if you can tell from this picture but the "belt buckle" has an A on it. He thought that was pretty cool.
And no cowboy costume is complete without proper chaps! Alexander was curious as to why I was taking this photo...I just couldn't resist!
I am pleased that Alexander was pleased but am vowing to become less of a procrastinator in the future. I'm tired today and am contemplating a nap while Charlotte takes hers!
In other news, people are starting to ask me to make things for them to purchase. I don't think I'm not quite there yet. I'm not a careful seamstress. I can't sew a straight line to save my life. I think that sewing for other people might completely stress me out and take the fun out of it. Peter thinks that I ought to take them up on it but I think he's just urging me so that I can fund my hobby. So, give me a couple more months of doing things for family and I might be able to figure out how to make everyone happy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More pickles!

I enjoyed making my last batch of pickles so much that I decided to do it again but I wanted to try a bread and butter recipe this time (Thanks Angela for your grandmother's recipe!). Also, my cucumber vines are multiplying like rabbits so I had to do something with the over abundance! I've been giving them away as quickly as I can but I still had 4 quarts to work with tonight. It's always more fun to learn new skills with a friend so I invited my friend, Tiffany, over to chat and can. The whole process went a lot faster with help and I enjoyed having someone to talk with as we worked. We won't know for 24 hours or so if they actually turned out but we're hopeful (and we had fun)!

I had a great visit with my friends, Becky and Laura, and their sons, Jet and Austin. We had lunch at one of my favorite places in Nashville, Baja Burrito, and then headed over to Children's Corner so they could check out the sale merchandise. Who can pass up a sale on fabric? I promised a picture of the dress that I finished for Charlotte last week. My model was feeling particularly agreeable today. I told her that I needed to take a picture of her dress and she ran over, stood in this pose and smiled, waiting patiently for me to do my business. She's such a sweet kid!
Alexander is quite the camera ham as well. He was building with his Wedgits and asked me take a pictures of the completed structure. I got the camera out and then he asked if he could be in the photo. I said yes and proceeded to take a few shots. He took a look at them and said, "Those are good but could you do a close-up?" Below is the photo that he approved by my little ham.
I've already started working on Christmas presents. I obviously can't post about those right now since I'd love for them to be surprises...but I wanted to remind you that there are only 164 more days until the man in red arrives! Alexander is already making his list so please let me know if there's anything (homemade) that you want in your stocking. I'll see what I can do to accommodate!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Homemaker

My dad mentioned the other day that I'm turning into quite the little homemaker. I'm really enjoying being at home and discovering all that I can do in my kitchen and dining room (that's where the sewing machine is, currently). Does it all sound a bit old fashioned? Yes, I believe that it does. But it's fun and it makes me happy. So, how can I resist? I'm considering changing the main title of my blog to The Happy Homemaker. I'm sure there's already someone out there using that title but that's ok, right?
So, in the last week, I have made blackberry jam using the berries from our CSA (and a few extras from the Nashville Farmer's Market); I haven't created a label for the jam yet; does anyone have any ideas of where to get some fun designs or a program that I can use to design my own?Attended a tomato canning party; Thanks, Carrie B. for the invite and the fun. You can check out Carrie's blog for more photos of our work! We had some yummy food; I took some blackberry cobbler that I would definitely make again. Healthy was not on my list while I was baking, but it sure did taste good.
Finished a dress for Charlotte which my friend, Amanda, monogrammed (photos to come at a later date when my model will hold still), and nearly completed a messenger bag using some fun fabric that I purchased at The Children's Corner during their 50% off sale. I love a good fabric sale! A word to the wise about choosing patterns, make sure you read all of the provided information on the back of the pattern before purchasing. I found this great pattern that looked relatively easy, purchased it, cut out the tissue pattern pieces, and cut out my fabric. Then, I read the back of the pattern that stated that I was only supposed to use quilted fabrics for the bag and that there was no lining inside the bag (because quilted fabric would already have a backing/lining). There was nothing that I could do but adapt the pattern to work for me. I created a lining by making a duplicate of the outside of the bag. It turned out pretty well and it will work for carrying around my wallet, a few diapers, and a sippy cup for Charlotte, all staples for when we go out.
The front of the bag. Still hoping to add some sort of clasp/snap/button since the pattern didn't call for it. I'm thinking snap because a button might be annoying when I need to get into the bag quickly. Maybe a snap with a faux button on the top?

Front of the bagInside of the bag with my made-up lining. It has lots of cute pockets inside but it's hard to get a good picture of those.

The back of the bag. It has two pockets for stuffing used tissues, register receipts, and half-eaten cereal bars. At least the fabric is laminated so I might be able to wipe off the gooiest messes. Maybe I ought to make a NO-GOO rule for my first homemade bag?
I discovered that my red and white Better Homes and Gardens cookbook has lots of fabulous photos for identifying fruits, vegetables, herbs, cheeses, cuts of meat, and more! Wish I had known this back when I was trying to identify all of the greens that we were receiving from the CSA. There's always next year! Thanks to Jessica S. who mentioned that she uses this cookbook for canning information as well. I wouldn't have even gotten it out had she not mentioned it. Seems that our sisters in the 1930s may have known what they were talking about! Also, I made some very yummy, per Peter and the kids, cheesy scalloped potatoes. We've been getting a good number of potatoes from the CSA and I wanted to try a new recipe. I'm so glad that I did. They went very well with edamame and panko encrusted tilapia. (Side note, why does the Blogger spell check not recognize edamame, panko, or tilapia as spelled correctly? Am I that terrible of a speller? Are these words so new that it just doesn't list them yet? Very odd.)

Here's a pic of the potatoes. Pay no attention to the grease spatters on the wall behind the stovetop. Did I mention that the builder of our house, Drees Homes, painted the ENTIRE house in flat paint? My goal in the next six months is to paint the kitchen. Peter doesn't know that yet but I suppose he'll figure it out when he reads this post. If he reads it. I'm not sure if many people are reading but I sure am typing a lot! Here's the recipe for the potatoes from BH&G. Make at your own risk. You'll want to eat all of them in one sitting! (Note: These take 85 minutes to bake so you have to think ahead if you want them for dinner.)

1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (I didn't add this)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
8 cups thinly sliced red, white, long white, or yellow potatoes

1. For sauce, in a medium saucepan cook onion and garlic in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside. Place half the sliced potatoes in a greased 3-quart rectagular dish (mine was only 2.6 qt. and worked fine). Top with half the sauce. Repeat layers.

2. Bake, COVERED, in a 350F oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40-50 minutes more or until potato is tender (I checked mine with a fork). Let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes before serving.

For Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, which I highly recommend: Prepare as above, except gradually add 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar (I used sharp white cheddar), Gruyere, or Swiss cheese to the thickened sauce, stirring until cheese melts. (I reserved a little of the cheese and sprinkled it on top so that we'd have a nice crusty top layer.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pickles and Skateboards

Yes, I thought that title might get your attention. They're certainly an odd pair. Luckily, for me and for you, they have absolutely nothing to do with one another except that they're part of two projects that I'm working on.
Cucumbers are growing like crazy in my garden. We're also receiving a few from our CSA through Avalon Acres. (Side note, lots of great photo identification of fruits and veggies on the Avalon site) Our family actually really likes cucumbers, even the kids will eat them. I've made my favorite greek salad using them but we still have plenty. So, I decided that I'd make some pickles. I'm more of a savory pickle eater so I began with a garlic dill recipe from here. I didn't have any crushed red pepper so I left it out. Hope that doesn't make them gross as I made 8 jars of them! I had never canned pickles before so I did quite a bit of research to figure out what materials that I would need. Jars seem to be fairly readily available at all of our local supermarkets, even the 'ghetto' Kroger near us. I bought mine at Walmart because we happened to be there. I also purchased a huge stock pot, a jar lifter, and a Ball Canning Discovery Kit. The kit included a green plastic rack that allowed me to use my stock pot and not need to purchase a special canning pot. If the jars rest on the bottom of the pot, they're likely to break.
I found the canning process pretty easy and it didn't really take long. The longest part was waiting for the water to boil in the HUGE stockpot. I sliced the cucumbers both long-ways and crosswise, testing which way might taste the best. I have opened one jar and the pickles taste pretty good. They're certainly strong but the brine smells just like pickle juice! I made the labels for the jars using Word and printed them on full-size label sheets.Skateboards
And you're probably wondering about the skateboards. I saw this fun idea in Country Living magazine to use skateboards as shelves in a boy's room. Since our little boy is turning into a not-so-little boy, I'm trying to transition his room into a room that can grow with him. I didn't figure that I'd actually be able to find any second-hand skateboards but happened to stop in at the Goodwill Outlet that is not too far from home. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found not one but two skateboards in the bargain bin! So, for $7 (plus the cost of 4 L-shaped brackets), I brought home a new shelving system for Alexander. He's excited and can't wait until Peter can mount them in his room. Until then, the kids are enjoying 'riding' the boards around the house.Again, it is so difficult to snap a picture of Charlotte without getting the back of her head or a big blur. I took about 20 pictures trying to show how much fun she was having lying on her tummy on this secondhand skateboard. What fun for a little girl!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Last night, Lipscomb, the university that is down the street from us, put on a fireworks display in honor of both the summer worship series and Independence Day. We decided that Alexander was finally old enough to stay up late and enjoy the show. The anticipation nearly drove him bonkers. By the time we arrived for the show, which was slated to begin at 9pm, he was a little bit loopy. Thanks so much to Emily Butler for staying home with Charlotte, who went to bed at 6:45, so that I could see the look on Alexander's face the first time he saw the lights and heard the sounds. It was a joy for me to see! When the show began, Alexander became very still and gazed up into the air. Then, he giggled, clapped his hands, and wiggled with glee. He LOVED every moment of it, even when he had to cover his ears because it was so loud. He hasn't stopped talking about it and wonders when we'll get to see them again!

Here he is, in awe!!I find it hard to document just how cool fireworks are but I got a few good shots and thought I'd share!
We went over to Lipscomb with Alexander's buddies, Sam and Henry. Henry was not too pleased that I was snapping pictures (he's on the left) but I managed to get this one where he didn't have time to stick his bottom lip out. The boys had a good time running around and acting crazy before the show began. The weather was perfect! Poor Henry fell or got pushed (you never know with boys), and bit his cheek. Ouch!! He didn't enjoy the first half of the show because he was hurting and, of course, none of us had brought water or anything. I felt bad for him that he didn't get to enjoy all of the show.
I might have to learn more about taking night pictures because I would love to get some even better ones next year!
Speaking of independence, our baby girl has grown up on us! She no longer wants to sit in a high chair, preferring to sit on her knees in a big-girl seat. She took her first shower this morning and
threw a fit when it was time to get out. I can understand that feeling as I never get a long enough shower with two little monkeys fighting over everything as I try to rush as fast as I can, sometimes forgetting to wash my feet!
I found a great idea for a festive 4th shirt for Charlotte here. I was able to finish it yesterday afternoon and thought it would be so fun to have a little twirl skirt to match. Using some of the skills that I've acquired through the Children's Corner (who have quite a few fabrics 50% off right now) and from the pj pants that I made, I put together a little skirt as well. Charlotte is not easy to photograph right now but I've done the best that I can to document! She wore this tonight to Peter's Vanderbilt MBA family BBQ and now I have to wash it so that she can wear it again tomorrow! Better get to it!This was my 5th attempt at trying to get a picture of the kids with Peter. Getting everyone to look at the camera without Alexander making a crazy face or Charlotte looking backwards is like herding cats! Thus, this result!