Friday, October 31, 2008

Last Minute Trick-or-treat Bags







So it was 3:30pm today and Canaan asked where his plastic pumpkin was for trick-or-treat tonight. Hmmmm.....it is gone. Given to Goodwill during the move.
So we ran upstairs where I whipped out 2 bags for the boys for tonight. It is now 4:30 and they are done! After sewing them, Canaan drew a picture of a pumpkin to put on the front.
We did our new favorite craft- freezer paper stencils- which is SOOOO easy. Painted them, put them in the sun for about 10 minutes and tada! Trick-or-treat bags in less than an hour.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Handmade Christmas gifts...



I haven't mentioned sewing or any form of crafting in a while, but it is going on around here. Last night I finally finished Canaan's scarf--which now fits Ezra. I started that thing 2 winter's ago....I really don't enjoy knitting that much to be honest. It was a labor of love.



Canaan found some Frosty the Snowman fabric last spring on the clearance table at Walmart. He asked me to make a blanket for him with it. It goes against my grain to buy anything with characters on it but hey, its Frosty! I had stuck the fabric in my "project" drawer and until yesterday had forgotten about it. At first I wanted to make a really cool, funky quilt with it but, in reality, hours of making the quilt would have been for my own liking.
At the fabric store while looking at that big puffy polar fleece I realized that he would much rather have a warm cozy fleece blanket that he could tote around the house than a labor intensive quilt that I would make him "take care of". So in about 20 minutes I had sewn his frosty fabric to the fleece and tada! a Frosty blanket that he is over the moon about.



Christmas gifts are coming along nicely. Here are 16 pouches for something special for all of the little kids in our lives...can't give away too much since many of the mama's read this blog!

I have 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper with all of the Christmas projects to work on in this next month. Lots of fun creating ahead.... quilts, pillows, memory books, scarves, secret kid pouches, stencil tees, homemade body scrubs and lotions, and so much more!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Around the House...

Well I said I wouldn't post any more pictures of the kitchen until its done, so I will just give you a glimpse of what I am still looking at day to day (half dining room, half kitchen).



I do have to say the delay in repairing the wall gave me a great idea the other night. Since there is already a hole there with a repair to be made, why not make a little built in bookshelf for my cookbooks??? Mike liked the idea so I guess that will delay our progress in finishing even more--but I think it will be a good storage solution and a nice touch.

(ignore the backsplash currently under construction :)


Did you know white vinegar has a ton of cleaning properties? Look here for 1001 ideas. http://www.vinegartips.com
I love any cleaning products that are safe for the kids and are inexpensive. I have started keeping a squirt bottle of half vinegar, half water on the sink. Vinegar, although it smells odd at first actually is a natural air cleaner when it evaporates...



One way I love to bring the smell of fall and yumminess into the house is by simmering a pot of water with cinnamon in it. I sometimes add orange peel, cloves or nutmeg. I turn it on low for a couple of hours and it gives the house a nice autumn smell...



The woodburning stove has been keeping us warm on these 30 degree mornings. We are all loving having our very own wood burning heat source. Its so thrilling to own a home after 10 years of renting. We appreciate everything we have been given so much!

Today I am going to look at some paint at Home Depot~ for the hundreth time! How many varying colors of one color can there be? Ezra and I will go to the gym and then off to the fabric store to get some supplies for the Christmas gifts being sewn.
See you tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Random Thoughts....



I seem to be in a fog lately. The weather has turned cold and I am in "hunker down" mode. Its HARD to motivate myself to go to the gym when its 40 degrees outside. I'd rather keep my pajamas on and have a cup of coffee close by.




I love the fact that I am able to wear sweaters on a consistant basis now! I have a really basic wardrobe so I love to mix and match all the time. Layering is essential in my book and my new favorite wardrobe addition this year is my Seven For All Mankind Skinny Jeans I got at Gabriel Brothers for $3....yes, this is not a misprint...$3 brand new (these jeans are normally $200). Anyhow, I wear them all the time. They go great with riding boots overtop or with a pair of kitten heels.



For those of you wondering, my first month in the Peddlers Mall is going great! I made my $120 rent within the first two weeks so these last 2 weeks of sales have been profit. With the economy the way it is I am surprised I am selling anything at all. So I am very grateful and excited to have a little side thing going to generate some much needed income for the family.

The biggest bummer lately has been that our kitchen has made NO progress. I am hoping by Christmas to have it finished. We have a few big projects getting in the way of us finishing smaller ones. The problem is there is no time to do bigger projects--only smaller ones. Hmmm....

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Outdoors Call...



Mike has been away on a business trip until last night. That left the boys and I here to enjoy the beautiful weather alone (boo hoo). We made the best of it by going to the University's Arboretum a couple of days ago. We explored through the gardens, took the scarecrow walk for Halloween, and played around the fields. It was a bit nippy outside but the sun was out and it was a gorgeous fall afternoon.


This weekend is supposed to be wet and cold. Hopefully that means getting some work done on the house!

On a side note. I am day 3 without white sugar or white flour. I think I am supposed to feel better by doing this, right?? Well I don't! It totally sucks not having a brownie or a pumpkin spice latte.
No reason for the elimination really. Sometimes I get the urge to do things like that. Its a good way to stay disciplined, atleast thats what I tell myself when I want that latte...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Missing Mongolia...



A few years ago Mike and I took a team of 15 college/high school students on a 6 week trip to Mongolia. We stayed in a primitive building with no toilets, no furniture, no running water, and limited electricity. I had seen much of the world by the time I went to Mongolia and yet Mongolia grabbed my heart. I miss Mongolia but really I miss international travel all together.



Traveling is simply amazing! The jet lag, the odd smells, the foods, the inability to communicate with other people in their language--it all plays such a vital role in our ability to adapt to difficult situations in life and gives us a better appreciation for our home here in America. On the other hand learning how family dynamics work in other cultures, seeing their rich traditions, experiencing life in their community gives me a challenge to not get so wrapped up in the crazy American hurried culture and rather enjoy my time at home with family and create our own family traditions.



Mike and I would love to travel again soon. I think exposing Canaan and Ezra to other cultures is an aspect of their lives we would like to develop. Of course money, time, money.... they are what keep us here for now...but someday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crock Pot Sugarless Apple Butter & Other Goodies

**This post has been very popular over the years. Please read this post for a great recipe and then head over to this post for 2011's updated version of the recipe.

I am down to my last few apples. I have had hundreds of apples come through my kitchen this fall; most of which became apple butter. I found a great way to make apple butter that is easy and healthy. It took some trial and error but here's what I did;





1. Wash, peel, and core enough apples to fill up your crock pot.
2. Add a dash of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg (really add whatever you like!)
3. Put a splash of apple cider over the apples so that it makes a thin layer on the bottom of the crock pot. This will keep the apples from burning.
4. Cook on low for a LONG time. I have a big crock pot and usually have mine cooking for a good 18-24 hours. You want the apples to not only cook but slowly cook for a long time to create a depth of flavor and natural sweetness.
5. After they have finished cooking, turn off heat and cool a bit. Put apples into a blender and mix until super smooth and "buttery".
6. At this point you could freeze some or can it or just run some over to the neighbors and share your bounty!

Enjoy!

This week I made some oatmeal rolls that were great with the apple butter. I also made homemade graham crackers ( you gotta "google" a recipe for them and try them.) You won't be disappointed...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Heaven is Going To Be One Big Beautiful Fall Day!



...well atleast in my mind that would be perfect! Here's some pictures from our fall outings in the backyard. Today I curled up with a quilt and some catalogs that came in the mail and made an afternoon fire. How perfect is that?!





The Continual Kitchen Saga...

This weekend was our first chilly weekend with pretty darn cold nights. On Friday night Mike decided to camp out in the backyard with the boys. I opted out because..well the house was alot warmer! We made a fire in our fire ring, roasted marshmallows, and the boys settled in their sleeping bags about 9pm. At 3am I heard the back door open and got up to see that Mike has with both boys. He said he was too cold and the boys were just too wiggly to get any sleep :)

(I just have to add here that I absolutely love our dreamy backyard. The fact that we are 2 miles from downtown and still have this great yard with another 30 acres of green space behind it is so great! After 10 years of renting it is truly a blessing to have such a great place.)



The next morning we dropped the boys off to Mike's sister who kept them for the day so we could continue our kitchen remodel Odyssey. It is quite an odyssey at that! Because of the budget constraints we can't just run out and buy everything needed to get it done. I look carefully for good deals, Mike occasionally dumpster dives at construction sites for materials, or we build things instead of buying them. Really as much as it is a budget issue its also just who Mike and I are. We have always had ingenuity and like to do projects on our own and take on the challenge. Anyhow, the kitchen is coming along. We found the wall color paint (the color is a secret to you all for now :). I thought we'd be spending the full amount for the paint because I was very specific but we ended up finding exactly what I wanted for $1 on the oops table. So far we have spent $41 of our $500 budget and have all the paint we need to paint the walls, cabinets, and floor, we have the hardwood flooring, a new door, an island, and hardware for the doors. All for $41!!! We still have crown molding to get as well as, nails to install the hardwood, a new light fixture, task lighting under the cabinets, a butcher block top for our kitchen island, tile back splash, and a couple of other things here and there.
I hope we can have it all done by Christmas. Our biggest challenge is going to be installing the hardwood and tiling the back splash. Anyone wanna come and help?
Today is a day for cleaning and catching up from a whirlwind weekend. Lots of laundry and piles of stuff on counter tops to sort through!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Our New Home Office

When we moved in to our new home back in March I immediately saw potential in our large hallway closet converting to a home office. Initially I thought we could knock out the wall and have it open to the living room.

(our closet before the switcharoo)


For the past few months our home office (Mike has no official office except here and I do my Ebay, Peddlers Mall stuff, writing, and general bill paying there) has been in our bedroom. We both hated it being in there. The papers would pile up and be a continual issue of stress for both of us because we were always "needing" to clean up the mess and woke up to the piles in the morning and went to bed with them at night...maybe you can identify?





Anyhow, last week I finally took on my original idea of the hallway office. I cleared out what had been in there--getting rid of much and storing some in the garage. I painted to spruce it up a bit and Mike used a piece of wood to make a desk area. I still need to buy (or make)some of those organizational bins for the wall that I am going to label and keep our bills and papers very organized in. We also need to run electricity to it for the printer and laptop.

(office is behind the open door in the hallway)


I am totally happy with the switcharoo and now we have a great little reading nook in the bedroom where the office used to be. Cost involved was nothing! Just a couple hours of work.

(this is the little reading nook although not nearly as great as I hope to sometime make it. But repurposing things already here this is what I came up with.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Just One Of Those Days....

Its been a bad day....well not necessarily a bad day but one of those days that I don't wish to repeat anytime soon. Lots of frustrations with the kids (whining, fighting, crying, fits...)and for some reason (I'll blame it on hormones) I am frazzled and anxious. I realized about an hour ago that it probably wasn't a good thing that I was bouncing from a cup of coffee to a latte that Mike brought home for me at lunch to a can of Pepsi---almost simultaniosly. Just one of those days....
And a few moments ago Ezra came up to show me his yogurt facial and hand treatment he gave himself with the banana yogurt he was eating. Oh to have time for a yogurt facial of my own! (notice the toilet paper all over the floor----just one of those days.)

This Season's First Pumpkin Pie






Canaan came home from school yesterday with a pumpkin he had picked from his field trip to the pumpkin patch. It was REALLY small. I asked why he picked such a small pumpkin and he said "so we can make a pumpkin pie!" He had remembered that pie pumpkins are much smaller than regular pumpkins (smart kid) so he just picked a small pumpkin for pumpkin pie. I have read that field pumpkins are not ideal for pumpkin recipes but he was so excited with his idea, how could I resist?



He did most of the work...because....well he is really quite competent in the kitchen. Except for slicing the pumpkin in half and putting them in the oven, Canaan was baker extraordinaire!
He wanted to make mini tart pumpkin pies and thankfully I had some leftover tart shell dough in the freezer (look at last weeks post on tart shells for the recipe).
We cut the pumpkin in 2 and baked it for about 20 minutes to get it soft. We pulsed the pulp in the food processor and mixed it (I had to adapt a bit b/c the amount of pumpkin pulp was smaller than any recipe I had.) with an egg, molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and milk. Baked it for about 20 minutes and voila---pumpkin pies!



Really good pumpkin pies! I think the addition of molasses and the removal of white sugar (just brown sugar) gave it a great depth of flavor.
Today and tomorrow Canaan is on fall break. It is rainy and chilly out this morning. I think we'll huddle down for a crafty day indoors. I hope to make some salt dough fall leaf ornaments with the boys....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Canaan




Each day I walk to get Canaan at school. Its a nice, brisk, beautiful walk up to the door where I pick him up. Ezra is always fresh up from a nap and always barefoot (he loves to be barefoot).

Usually I walk to get him around 2:30 but lately I have been going about fifteen minutes early so I can sit and knit for a few minutes before he comes out. There is a cute little bench in the shade that I sit on and watch Ezra kick a soccer ball around while trying to finish a scarf I promised Canaan 2 winter's ago. I had taken him to the fabric store and he excitedly picked out this vibrant yellow yarn (his favorite color at the time and is a close second to orange now).

I thought it would take me a week or so but it was right after Ezra was born and with the combination of sleepless nights, nursing a baby quite often almost all day long, and using way too small of knitting needles, it is still in progress. I am determined to finish it by this winter. My only hope is that he doesn't loose it at school..
Last night at the dinner table Canaan asked when I would be 70 years old. I told him that since I am 30 now I would be 70 in 40 years. You could see the wheels turning in his head as to that kind of math so I walked over to the dry erase board and tried explaining double digit addition to him. Within less than fifteen minutes I had written 9 problems on the easel and he was working away at them. He finished all 9 of them in just a few minutes and was eagerly asking for more to do. His little brain absolutely blows me away.

His eagerness to learn and know more is amazing to me. Last week he was accepted into the gifted program at school---I had no idea there were gifted programs for Kindergarten. Anyhow, he has no idea what that is but I just explained that he would get to take some extra classes to learn more (which thrilled him!)
A quick update on Ezra- he is our little drummer boy. He plays drums all day long on everything. We don't actually have a drum set but that does not deter him. He bangs his way through the day singing "real rock star!" I have to say I am really proud of myself for not going absolutely crazy with the constant drum playing. Hooray for mom!

He loves soccer balls, basketballs, golf balls, tennis balls...you get the point. Lately he is facinated with the neighbor kid across the street who skateboards each evening. Ezra has made his own skateboards out of train track pieces which has tries to shimmy along the floor on. Mike and I both yelled out an exasperated "NO" last night as he was trying to skateboard down the stairs...he's absolutely fearless this 2 year old!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Some crafty things in cyberspace...

As I find inspiring ideas for home decor, gifts, and such online I copy the picture and stick them in a folder on my desktop titled "creative ideas". Its my little inspiration folder that helps get my creative juices going when I need to make a last minute gift or want to (as I am doing now) begin making Christmas gifts.
I never use them exactly as-is but find many ideas already out there are great launching points for new ones. Here's some of them inspiring me for the upcoming holiday season.
Applique Tee Shirts


Embroidered Dish Towels ala Anthropologie


Bookmarks


Funky Pillows


Fantastic Purses


And thats just a few of them. I'd better get to work!