Friday, September 25, 2009

If my laundry were this cute I just might be inclinded to do it

There's a contest going on over at Lil Blue Boo which I hope none of you enter. Because I really want to win. These clothes are adorable! My favorite is the Misha Lulu "Elefantito" Dress. I just can't get over those stripes. So cute. Anyway, I suppose if you must you may go join in the contest, but I really hope you won't. Maybe instead you'll just buy lots of cute things from her boutique for me? Oh, I mean... for my daughter. If you feel so inclined, you can click here to go to her shop or you can visit the Lily's Laundry blog. See ya!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blog Feature: Helping Little Hands

Once again, I'm blaming this on Lindsey. Who got me hooked on crafty blogs. And then I got my sister hooked on crafty blogs. I've created a monster.

After a few weeks of my sister Polly and I starting online conversations with, "Hey! So did you see this tutorial?" she has finally decided to start her own crafty blog. You can find it HERE or on my side bar in the "crafty blogs" section.

I'd like to say this about Polly: while I'm dutifully copying and pasting great tutorials I find, she actually makes the crafts we see on everybody else's blogs and spend hours talking about. And she makes lots of other cool things. And they always turn out really good. Polly's quilts, for example, make my quilts want to go hide in a closet. Forever. Perhaps this is because Polly lucked out with the (only) math skills in the family in addition to the crafty streak that seems to run in my sisters and me. (Sorry, David. I'm just not sure you've got it.) In other words, Polly knows how much fabric to buy in the first place. And she bothers to measure things. And she understands how it's all going to fit together from the beginning of the project. (My own personal attitude being more of a "let's try it this way and see how it turns out" approach.)

Polly's new blog is great. But don't take my word for it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Just Caught A Whiff

Disclaimer: real women can skip this post. It's just the thoughts of a novice.

I feel like I'm coming out of the cloud I've been in for the past nine months. It was one of those icky clouds where good food smelled bad, I was eating (motivated by near starvation, it seemed) about every half hour (and going to the bathroom at least as often), and somehow feeling a complete lack of energy or motivation to do much of anything. Then, yesterday, I hit a point where I wanted to make real meals and be somewhat of a real homemaker. If you've known me at all while I was pregnant you realize what a big deal this is. I really only cooked a handful of meals the entire nine months.

I think this desire to feed my family was triggered by Bryan's remark about what he took for breakfast and lunch yesterday. I won't tell on him, but let's just say I want my wonderful husband to have more nutrients than that, especially when he's working hard in his schoolwork and being really nice to me (i.e. getting up with our baby girl during the night). So, for family night last night I gave a lesson on the importance of eating good meals. (This was in no way a lame guilt trip as it was as much- or more- for my sake than Bryan's.) I started by reading "Six Dinner Sid" by Inga Moore. (Why is it my family night lessons are always portrayed through children's literature? Someday when I have teenagers I might have to grow up and do something else.) Then I read a few things I found on and Bryan and I discussed how much easier it would be to eat healthy if we plan ahead.

Next, I had Bryan write down a list of things he'd like to have in the lunches he takes with him to campus. Hopefully this will help me pack foods for him that will make him happy instead of the random stuff that sounds good to me. So far so good. Then we perused a few of our favorite cookbooks and took note of some of the meals that looked good (and reasonably easy). We wrote down the name of the meal, the title and page number of the cookbook the recipe was found in, and a list of the ingredients (and amounts of each) needed. This way we could do a quick check to see if we had everything. This method wasn't really planned, we just kind of did it that way. But after we had realized the greatness of our method we decided to preserve it. In other words, I'll be copying what we wrote last night (on just plain old computer paper) onto 3 by 5 cards so we can use these for dinner ideas in the future.

Also, get this, we even planned side dishes to go with each meal. Now I know this may seem like a bit much. After all, up until this point in our marriage we have generally only planned side dishes when company was coming, but I thought it might be time to step things up a notch. Well, that and the first recipe I wrote down had side dish suggestions with the page numbers of their recipes and that sounded good, so I figured, "why not?"

Then I went over to our calendar...

I must side track for a moment and brag about our calendar. Credit for this idea goes to my friends Stephani and Todd since we got the idea when we saw it in their home during our Thanksgiving visit last year. The idea is genius. Or at least Bryan and I think so. Rather than splurge on a fancy wall calendar, they got a regular big desk calendar and hung it on their freezer door. (We did this by using 3M sticky tabs- oh how I love those.) This puts the calendar in a place where it will actually get looked at and used every day instead of off on some wall where you can actually hang it up. I may never go back to regular calendars. Unless I get one of those cool new fridges that has the freezer on the bottom or has two long skinny doors instead of the short freezer door on top and the... nevermind. Back to meal planning...

As I was saying. Then I went over to our calendar and actually wrote the meals (and side dishes!) down on the calendar so I'd know what ingredients I would need to buy and how soon and so on and so forth. For this week I planned three days of prepared meals and then a day of left overs and a day of whatever (Saturday). I feel excited.

Final step: grocery shopping. Luckily my wonderful sister who happens to live in the same stairwell I do (how convenient!) offered to watch my baby girl for me while I went to the store last night so Bryan could keep working on his not-so-fun chemistry homework. Or perhaps when I say sister I mean brother-in-law who was even so kind as to change her poopy diaper while she was there. Thanks guys! I sped through the grocery store as fast as I could picking up the things we needed for meals for the rest of the week as well as some of the lunch foods that Bryan requested. "Shopping" is already on the calendar for Saturday, so there was no need to buy ingredients for next week's meals.

This has resulted in prepackaged (by me) lunch food for Bryan today and the wonderful smell coming from my kitchen. Today's menu comes from the cookbook "Anyone Can Cook" from Better Homes and Gardens. This is basically the dumbed-down version of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with the red and white checked background on the cover, you know the one I mean. Anyway, despite my having majored in Home and Family Living and having taken a number of cooking classes, I still prefer the easy stuff. So I secretly love this cookbook. Why? Because it has pictures of almost everything. My favorite. Anyway, today's menu: Salsa Swiss Steak and Cornbread. The steak is already simmering away in the crock pot and the cornbread is all served up in a muffin pan, ready to get popped in the oven (just in case my baby girl isn't asleep when it's time to get dinner on the table).

Hooray! Perhaps I'm on my way to being somewhat more of a real woman. Let's just hope the prep for tomorrow's meal runs as smoothly as today's did. And that everything is actually ready at the same time. Isn't that just the hardest part of preparing meals? You know, other than deciding what to eat and actually spending the time to make it. Okay, the end.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Call Me Oregonian

Rainy Day Tee -- tutorial HERE

The first mark of an Oregonian is that we actually refer to ourselves as Oregonians. Nobody else in the nation even knows that that's what you call somebody from Oregon. The second mark of a true Oregonian is a near obsession with the rain. And I've got it.

I love the summer sun and fun days at the beach or the park, but nothing makes me feel the way the rain does. I think the only time I find myself disappointed that it's raining is when I've planned an outdoor party (like my birthday party. Sad day. At least we got to play with the parachute). Everybody and their mom says they love the way the rain smells, and I do, but even more than that I love how the sky takes on it's hue of overcast gray and lets out the beautiful pit-pat-pat-pit-pit of raindrops on the world. Can't you just hear the sound of rain falling in a tin can? Or on the plastic overhang on the side patio? I can.

Oregonians also know how to puddle-hop. This was a talent I took for granted until my husband and I started dating and going for long walks all the time. Even in the dark I had no problems stepping or daintily (I'm so sure) leaping over the puddles in my path. Meanwhile, my poor, doting hand-holder was walking around with wet feet. I tried to teach him, but to no avail.

Another thing about rain- there are different kinds. Downpour, torrential downpour, just rain, spittle rain (makes me itchy), the list goes on. Just rain, or a good hard rain (especially when you're already crying anyway) are my favorites.

Perhaps my favorite way to get caught in the rain is wearing a cozy hoodie. I picture myself running in from the parking lot in high school wearing one of the many promotional sweatshirts from the plays I was in. Why on earth did I ever pack those away in a box and leave them at home? I miss them. They are like old friends. So many memories.

Life feels right when it's raining on the world. Perhaps that's why I find myself feeling so thrilled every time it rains here in this place I'm in that's not Oregon. Today about lunch time we heard the thunder roll in loud and booming. I started feeling excited. Then, the torrential downpour began. It was one of those rains that comes down in sheets and makes the spaces in between the color of trees and buildings look white. I couldn't help myself- I got up from my lunch to join my two year-old nephew on the balcony to watch the rain.

Ahh. Everything is beautiful.

Welcome back writing blog! This post brought to you in honor of the ever-famous Worn Out Pencil. I took a break right after the birth of my sweet baby girl, but I am (once again) recommitting myself to my writing goal. Visit my writing blog for a daily dose of words on purpose.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Alphabet Bean Bag Tutorial

Well, I admittedly still haven't completely finished this project, but I did finish enough to show you how to do it yourself and with a brand new baby at home now I'm not sure when I'll get the chance to go all the way from A to Z. So (finally) here's the bean bag tutorial I've been promising! But before I begin I must give credit for my inspiration. I thought of making these out of my t-shirt scraps after I saw the letter bean bag tutorial on lil blue boo. Click here to see it. Hers look much more professional and trendy. Perhaps someday I will be cool like that. For now, here's my own little recycled version. Enjoy!

Okay, remember these?

If not, feel free to go check out my t-shirt grocery bag tutorial. Don't worry, I'll wait.


Okay, done with your t-shirt bag(s)? Excellent. Now, wouldn't you like to do something splendid with that pile of left over sleeves you have? Me too. Let's make some bean bags. With letters on them, please.

Start by making a template. (Mine is that dark blue rectangle. It measures 3 1/2 inches by 4 inches. I just made that template freehand, but it turned out to be the perfect size for getting the right amount of rectangles out of all those sleeves.)

Okay, next, take one of your sleeves and lay it out nicely like this.

Then fold it over like this.

Then place your template on top of it like this. (Sorry for the poor picture quality. Not sure what happened.) Go ahead and cut it out. It'll give you four new rectangles. I didn't bother pinning for this. You may also be able to cut some rectangles out of the left overs from the necklines. Like that picture at the beginning of the tutorial. (No, not the picture of the finished t-shirt bags, the one below that. Yeah, that one.) Just place your template on it wherever you can get a rectangle out of it. That only worked with a few of my necklines. Okay, enough about the neckline scraps. Boring! Let's move on.

Keep cutting. And cutting. And cutting. And soon you'll have a pile like mine. Yay! (Don't worry, you don't need this many. In fact, you only need 52. However, I recommend having 54 if possible so you can make a sample bean bag to practice on so you don't run the risk of ruining one with a carefully-made letter on it. You'll understand in a minute.

Now it's time for the alphabet. Grab a pencil and write the letters on the bean bags. Again, I just did this freehand, but if you're nervous about that I'm sure you could use a template of some kind. I'm just not that patient. Don't worry about the pencil showing. It won't.

Next, do a tight (very close together) zigzag stitch over the letter you wrote. (I strongly recommend doing a few practice stitches on a scrap of t-shirt fabric before actually doing your letters. This will allow you to make sure your zigzag is tight enough to make a solid-looking line.) Don't forget to back stitch! These will be played with, so you'll want them to be durable.

A word of caution: beware the zigzags getting bunched up and making your needle stuck. (That ruined a few letters for me and I had to do them over again. Some of them I figured were still good enough and I used them anyway, but they are, admittedly, a little funky.) One way to try and avoid this tragedy is to not start from the same place that you started from/ stopped at previously. For instance, if you're making the horizontal parts on the letter E, start from the right instead of from the vertical line you've already made on the left. I hope that makes sense. If not please say so and I'll try to clarify.

Here are some pictures of the letters I made:

Okay, moving on.

Next, pin your uppercase A and lowercase a right sides together.

Sew most of the way around the edges.

Trim corners. Be careful not to snip too close to the stitching or it could make your corners weak. And you certainly don't want that. Then turn your bean bag right side out. Edge stitch around the edge (was that necessary for me to say?) for a more finished look. This will also make the final step on finishing your bean bags more quick since you can do it on the sewing machine instead of having to hand stitch all those little holes closed. Thanks lil blue boo for that tip!

Now fill your bean bag with beans! I made a paper funnel out of some cardstock and a piece of tape. So easy.


Pin your hole closed (saves on sanity) and stitch across the hole. And you're done!

Unfortunately, I am not (done, that is). When I am I promise to post some lovely pictures of all my fun alphabet bean bags. In the mean time you can all work on your own. If you make any please be sure to share! Thanks everyone! Have a great day!

Dear Marae,


...forget... call...

...and Whitter Poopsie...

...before... and Ben...

...go on the biggest road trip of your life and go beyond the bounds of the BSR.