Monday, October 28, 2013

Week in Review: October 21-27

Last week felt like it was definitely a fall-ish week, what with its pie-making & pinecone crafting & leaf collecting.

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I made my first pie from scratch, as you might recall from the recent blog post. I'm loving all these memories I'm creating with my grandmother & mom.  

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The leaves on the trees are so gorgeous. *happy sigh* I want to bottle up their colors & keep them forever. My friend Julie & I went on a fall leaf walk last week along the river. We collected several leaves of varying shapes & colors. There were signs along the path that read "CAUTION: RATTLESNAKES" & I was trying to calculate how fast I could climb up Julie's shoulders in case I saw one. We never did see one. And I never did tell Julie my plans for an impromptu piggy-back ride.

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Remember that tutorial I shared about the Pinecone Owlie & Hedgehog? I crafted that exact project with several 4th graders in STAR Club & they LOVED it. I was so motherly & cautious about letting them use the hot glue gun. But they wanted to show their independence & capability. So I let go. I call them my crafty home-girls. STAR Club is part of a reward system for the 4th grade classes. If the students turned in their work for the week, finish their assignments, & have avoided disciplinary issues, then they can attend the 25 minute STAR Club, choosing from a handful of projects & activities. I think if I were in 4th grade STAR club would be the highlight of my week.

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The Mr. & I hit up a couple taco trucks. Man, I love me an authentic taco. It wasn't as authentic as that one time I went to Mexico & bought a taco at a street stand, complete with hairless, scabby dogs limping around my feet. That was some good eatin'. 

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I got to hang out with my little twin nieces this week. We took a stroll through the last Farmer's Market of the season with my mom & grandmother. Did you see those adorable pumpkin buckets filled with pansies in the photo collage? So cute. I call them Jack-O-Pansies. I saw the sweetest little baby wearing a knitted viking cap at the Market. I met the coolest dude in dreads, crocheting. I tasted the most yummy pumpkin spice macaroons EVER. Honestly, I think that was the first macaroon I've ever eaten. Is that weird? I picked out a couple green heirloom tomatoes & have plans to fry them up with dinner later this week. I spied beautiful fall cut flowers & wished I woulda gotten a bouquet.

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Did you see Zoey & Pazely's hair for Cray Cray Hair Day at school on the WhiMSy love facebook page? I am not very good at doing hair stuff. But I did my best. Zoey had dinosaurs peeking through her green hair. Pazely's was teased all over, colored purple & held in place with old-school Aqua Net. It was so big & awesome that people thought she was wearing a wig. I was so embarrassed, though, because after school the Mr. took Pazely to her hair appointment. (We didn't plan that on purpose.) The stylist had to shampoo her hair 4 times to get everything out!! *eek* I'm pretty sure she hates us.

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It's 57 degrees outside today & I am giddy! 
Happy Monday!

cake postcard

It's a CAKE!
I crafted up two postcards (made from one sponge) & sent one to my Susan friend in Nebraska for her birthday.
They are super fun & easy to make.
Check out the tutorial HERE, from Sandra Denneler. And then, check out Sandra's blog, Project Denneler, where she shares lots of fun projects. (Including even MORE awesome postcards in the form of apple pie, pumpkin pie & cheesecake!!)

TIP: If you decide to make some cake postcards yourself, I found it very helpful, after the sponge was cut, spray painted, & cardboard front attached (for writing message on), to skewer it underneath with two toothpicks & then insert the cake, upright with toothpicks, into a narrow cardboard box before applying caulking. It can stand this way for the long drying process too. (It took mine about 5-7 days to dry.)

My postcard cost $2.40 to mail. It arrived in one piece, undamaged. 
Sweet!


Friday, October 25, 2013

DIY: pinecone owl & hedgehog

I scoured Pinterest for a pinecone owlie project to craft with some 4th grade kidlets this week. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. So here's my version. I think he is the cutest little pudgy thing ever.

They are SUPER simple to make.
Supplies:
•large pinecones
•felt (5 colors)
•googly eyes (I used 1/2" round eyes)
•scissors
•hot glue gun
• stapler (or tacky glue)

First, cut out your felt. I don't have any patterns for you to print. I need to figure out how to do that.
I chose 5 colors of felt. You can mix up the colors any way you want, but here are the colors I chose:
rust for 2 wings in a leaf-ish shape (2 3/4" long/1 1/4" at widest point)
orange for the beak (3/4" wide x 7/8" tall)
dark brown for the face/ears (2 3/4" wide x 1 1/2" tall at highest point)
turquoise for 2 large eye circles (1 1/4" round)
mustard for 2 small eye circles (7/8" round)

(Your measurements may differ, depending on pinecone size & your preference, but I've listed them anyway, as a guideline.)
The shapes are so forgiving, & it doesn't have to be perfect. 
Just get out your scissors & cut!

Snip the largest eye circles all the way around, as pictured.

Next, attach the beak to the face with hot glue.

Now, stack the pieces in this order & use a stapler to keep it all together. (I have 25 minutes to do this craft with a handful of 9 year olds. I was trying to think of the quickest way to assemble without having to use glue.) And, honestly, my stapler did give me an attitude. So, if you're not pressed for time, use the hot glue gun!

Attach the googly eyes with hot glue. TIP: apply the hot glue to the felt first, & then place the googly eyes on top of the glue. The tip of the hot glue gun can melt the back of the googly eyes & cause a googly mess.

Finally, attach the face & wings to the pinecone with more hot glue.


I decided the owl needed some woodland friends, so I crafted up these hedgehogs. For the hedgies, you only need 2 colors of felt: a little circular black nose + the color you choose for the face, cut in the shape of a triangle with the corners rounded-ish. The googly eyes are 1/4" round.
Hot glue the pieces to the face, & then glue the face to the pinecone.
Note: the pinecone is laid on its side, with the "pointy" end serving as the base for the face.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

i made a pie

This afternoon I had a lovely time hanging out with my mom & grandmother. I was on a mission, really: To make my very first pie from scratch, using my grandmother's long-loved pie crust recipe. My grandmother has not made this pie crust in years & years & years. And years. Ever since she tried the frozen pre-made packages of pie crust sold in grocery stores, she never looked back. Not once. 
My dad, unceasingly, begs & pleads for someone, ANYONE, to make one of grandma's pies with the homemade crusts. But I think mom & grandma pretend not to listen. Or they'll giggle in his direction. It's this perpetual routine they have. And when the holiday season rolls around? There is no hushing that man. 
Just give him a pie already!

Today I took on the challenge. 
But with a twist. In fact, we made a game of it. Dad was about to be the sole player in a blindfold taste test.  I made an apple pie, using the infamous recipe, while mom made a pie using a Pillsbury pie crust.

Grandmother helped me peel & cut apples.
While I rolled out pie dough, the Mr. even stopped by & swapped stories with all the ladies. He shared about how he once made a pie when he was a kid, & it didn't turn out so well. (What?!? I am gaining the most random of facts about him all the time. In fact, I just recently learned that he collected stickers & even had a sticker album in grade school. Huh?!? Pies & stickers? I'm pretty sure I love him even more.) 
Anyway, I had a bit of trouble with the dough, trying three times until I finally perfected the top crust. 
"I think it's too thick," said the Mr. 
As if his 8 year old pie-making self was suddenly an expert on the subject.
OK, my recent new explosion of love for you still exists, but step away, son.

There's nothing creative about my adorable polka dotted design. One word: Pinterest!
While the pies cooked, there was tea-sipping going on. Bits of leftover pie dough were sprinkled with cinnamon + sugar, baked, & nibbled on.
The pies filled the house with a fragrance of fruit & spice. 
And then it was time to eat. 

I'll just get to the ending.
Dad chose mom's store-bought pie over mine.
And so did the Mr.
And so did everyone else.

The Doughboy won.

I have never entered a baking contest, but I decided I would not ever like to enter one. 
I admit, the filling in my mom's pie was much sweeter & her apples were cooked to a perfect limp. Which is weird, because we used the same recipe for the filling. Whatevs. No excuses.
I personally love a thick, flaky crust. 
Which is a good thing. 
Because I have lots of pie leftover.




The winning pie.





Monday, October 21, 2013

Summer Memory: Making Jam with Grandmother

I have dreamed of this day. I'm serious. It was as epic as ever.
Grandma's raspberry jam fits in a category as big as that: EPIC.


As a kid, visits to grandma's house included many things: jaunts down the winding trail to the beach (& the breathless trek back up), long hunts for sea glass, board games with cousins, card games with aunts, a lazy cat on grandpa's lap &, one of my favorites: a biscuit or two smothered with butter & embellished with dollops of grandmother's raspberry jam.

A taste of this jam & I am immediately transported. I am on the ferry boat that takes me to the island where grandma lives. I am in her warm house. I walk past rubber boots in the laundry room & see the cookie jar on the corner shelf where treats are hidden for grandkids. I spy the oval shaped braided rug on the floor in the family room, & smell the wood stove burning. I look through a giant window which overlooks a ginormous yard filled with: plenty of space to run & play, a deck for watching the ocean activity, a forest balanced on either side of the lawn. I walk outside & am surrounded by pine trees. I notice grandpa's rigs & tool shed. I pass by grandma's vegetable garden. 
But I'm getting off topic...

For the last few years I thought how special it would be to make jam with grandma. But I lived so far away & didn't know if I'd ever get to be near her again. Four months ago there were 1,253.18 miles that separated us. Now, I am only .29 miles down the road. Just a simple 6 minute walk away. 
And I returned at the height of jam-making season.

A visit to the Farmer's Market this summer produced 12 cups of raspberries. 12 glorious cups. The berries smelled so sweet & perfect.
Jars & pectin & sugar were gathered next.

This newbie to canning (*points to self*) had a slight freak out moment before it all began, but grandmother calmed my nerves. My mom was nearby to help too. I bumbled around a bit & made a mess far more outrageous than two simple batches of jam should ever make.
Grandmother, taking support from her cane & leaning on the kitchen counter, patiently guided me along. 
I brought her a chair from the dining table & plopped it right next to the stove so she'd be more comfortable. And so she'd be as close as possible in case I needed her.

Grandmother hadn't made jam in years. I think she missed the rolling boil, the skimming of the foam.
She nudged me aside so she could have a stir at the pot. 
That lady got up on her jam-cycle & did wheelies just to show off.

Once the jars were filled, I waited patiently. And then I heard it: PING!!! I squealed. One down, 17 more to go. In a matter of minutes, all 18 jars sealed with that magical sound. I was so excited! The cutest thing was how happy my grandmother was for me. 

The jars of jam are currently down in the cool basement. They are precious to me. I feel like a jam hoarder. But in reality, they are ready to give as Christmas gifts.

The jam is delicious. Tastes just like grandma's.


Made with love. Tremendous big gobs of it.

Week in Review: October 14-20

These Week in Review posts never conjure up very many comments or views. I get it, it's the whole unappealing idea of looking through someone's family photo album that you barely know. (Boring City.) But I like to write these posts, I like blabbing about my week, about what's going on in the WhiMSy love home, about the randomness that's flittering about in my head. So, though the crickets chirp, I shall go on...

I haven't gotten back into the swing of a regular creative routine since the move 4 months ago. I'm finding this to be normal though. It was the same way with each of our 3 moves in the last 4 years. I'm anxious to be settled, to find a rhythm. And yet, the horizon is still blurred for our little family of four. Since arriving in Washington, the Mr. has been volunteering at a local church, our old home church when we lived here before. Yet, volunteering doesn't pay the bills, & regular employment has not revealed itself yet. Which means moving may be in our future again. I'm hoping & wishing & praying & begging God to please, please, please let me stay near my family. It's so amazing to be able to walk down the street to visit with my mom, to help dad mow the lawn every week, to have regular breakfast & tea with the ladies of my family, to make jam with grandmother, to run errands with mother, to squeeze the tiny necks of my nieces, to kiss the face of my nephew, to go to my brother's house for his birthday. I love that they all are, essentially, my neighbors. I love that a visit, when so desired, is immediate. So I sit & wait & pray, & wonder what will happen next. Though I am slightly freaking out about all that goes along with NOT having an income, I do not lose hope. 

And lately I've been too preoccupied to become overwhelmed by the current circumstances. This is what I've been up to lately...
•Volunteering to help plan crafts/activities for Pazely's 4th grade class. Last week the Silly People Drawings &  The Roll a Pumpkin Game were big hits!
•Apple picking with friends at an orchard I remember going to as a kid. 
•Taking an outing with the fam to Country Mercantile, where we went on a hayride, picked pumpkins, went through a corn maze, saw cows & pigs & bunnies & goats, climbed hay bales, & brought home sweet treats from the chocolate factory in the form of seafoam, cake balls & gourmet candied apples. And, really, if I never step foot near a corn maze again, that would be ok. 
•Leading worship, on occasion, at church.
•Listening to the sounds of a newbie cello player. (Zoey got to bring her cello home last week!)
•Making hummus with my mother.
•Taking regular walks, & especially enjoying the Fall weather with all its leaf magic.
•Helping with heaps of homework. (Wowzers. Zoey's 5th grade load is sometimes overwhelming.)
•Browsing Pinterest for dinner ideas, where I have tested & enjoyed: Baked Apples & Leeks, Honey Garlic Crockpot Chicken (SOOOO yummy!), Roasted Avocado over Couscous & Mixed Greens, & Egg, Cheese & Sausage Strata.
•Hitting a 20-pound weight loss mark. (Still a long way to go, but I'm getting there!)
•Watching a marathon of Grimm.

And so, that is all for now. Hope your Monday was a happy one!

Friday, October 18, 2013

DIY: Cross-stitch Paper Portrait Gift Tags (& ornaments!)

When I received the book, Martha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids, & was asked to craft up something on this blog, the first thought I had was: "This is an impossible task." The book is filled with SO many fun crafts & activities. (175 projects, to be exact.) The girls & I played with popsicle sticks & created a house like the one featured on page 73. I also used the instructions to make the Delta Wing paper airplane & stand, on page 128, for Zoey's recent "Get Air" birthday party.
But the projects I love the most in the book are the cross-stitch family portraits. Cross-stitching is the very first craft I remember getting my hands on as a kid. My mom taught me the how-to's. And I was immediately hooked! I even remember my first cross-stitch project: an ornament displaying a snowy church, & a holiday tree. I stitched up that little heart-shaped decoration in the backseat of the family car while traveling over the mountains to see family at Christmas.

The unique thing about these gift tags (which can also be easily removed from the gift & hung on a Christmas tree as an ornament, to be cherished forever & always) is that they are stitched on perforated paper. (Not sure if perforated cross-stitch paper is sold in craft stores. But you can look online & find it readily available.) 

Supplies you'll need for this project:
•perforated cross-stitch paper
(Click HERE for tips on using perforated paper)
•embroidery floss in desired colors
•needle
•scissors
•graph paper
•colored pencils

Sketching out your designs is so much fun!! The book gives many great examples (including full body portraits & accessories) that you can use as the starting point for your design.
I chose to stitch Zoey & Pazely's heads only.

The designs I began with morphed into something different in the end. Firstly, Zoey's hair got a major makeover. (At least 5 inches chopped off!) And secondly, the design I originally stitched was too tiny, so I extended my stitches over 2 squares to make the design larger.

Once you have measured how big your pattern is (by counting the stitches horizontally & vertically), you'll need to cut the perforated paper to size. I always cut the paper a little bigger than my pattern, for some extra wiggle room. (And for plenty of space to add extra embellishments, etc.)

To begin cross-stitching, find the center square on your pattern & mark it with an "X". Next, find the center on your perforated paper & begin stitching. 

Once your design is stitched, trim the edges to your liking, by carefully snipping the paper with scissors. Add whatever embellishments you'd like. I also punched a hole in the corner of the finished tag. Slip a ribbon through the hole for wrapping around a gift, or for hanging as an ornament.
At Christmas, I think it'd be so much fun to have these as tags on gifts, instead of the typical "TO" & "FROM"---see if the cousins, or the grandkids or your own children can figure out which gift is theirs by the portraits on the prezzies.
(Stitch the year, or the name of the person featured in the cross-stitched portrait for a more personalized ornament.)

This project is great for young crafters. Zoey's even got some patterns sketched out on graph paper, ready for stitching. 
For an even MORE kid-friendly version, why not try stitching with yarn onto plastic canvas? I'm anxious to try this idea myself!