Friday, January 22, 2010

Gratitude List: Nos. 104-117

104. Maternity sales (can you say 7 items at Gap Maternity for just $27?!)

105. Homemade lefse from a friend

106. Safe travels to and from Colorado, despite the Christmas snowstorm

107. Public libraries

108. Spending unexpected time with my grandparents over Christmas

109. A fun gift basket from family under the tree just for Baby

110. A strong husband to shovel the snowdrifts in our loooong driveway when the snow blower breaks down

111. The anticipation of having our washer and dryer moved upstairs soon to the new mudroom (no more trips to the dark, icky basement to wash clothes!)

112. New on-the-job experiences/challenges

113. Knowing that our baby has now developed enough to survive outside the womb

114. Chicken pesto pizza

115. Humidifiers

116. Walking into our closet to find my niece and nephew trying on my high heels

117. Thrift stores

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Handmade Christmas No. 4: Sweet Stockings

These baby booties were knit for Little Miss Fancy Pants Marryn. I found the pattern online at Knitting Daily. I knit them on Size 1 double-pointed needles, using Panda yarn by Crystal Palace (primarily bamboo fibers but also cotton and a bit of elastic/nylon to give them a little stretch). It proved to be a harder pattern than one would expect out of a little pair of stockings, but after ripping them out and starting over again (and again...), the finished product was irresistible. Wouldn't you agree?

Friday, January 15, 2010

hello third trimester.

At 26 weeks I…

* Miss being able to bend over effortlessly

* Have experienced my first excruciating leg cramp (a jump-out-of-bed-and-plead-for-it-to-stop kind of cramp…this might give you an idea of what a trooper I’ll probably be during the actual labor)

* Get winded walking up the stairs (or down them, for that matter)

* Never knew the heartburn would be this bad

* Never knew that having a baby growing inside me would be this cool

* Am ready to splurge on a couple pairs of maternity jeans

* Have heard the baby’s heartbeat!

* Started prenatal classes with Winn (who got to try on the “empathy belly”...hilarious) and enjoyed meeting the other first-time moms (and dads) in the class who are due around the same time we are

* Am doing a bit of sewing and knitting for Wee Cradic

* Think body pillows, Belly Bands, and antacids were genius inventions

Thursday, January 14, 2010

nursery inspiration.

This morning I sat down with my latte, banana bread, orange, and laptop, knowing full well that I have two transcripts to finish, yet unable to tear myself away from surfing the web for vintage nursery fabrics and paint color ideas. Trying to keep it simple, we've collected a select few items for Wee Cradic's room, including a crib from Craigslist and an old dresser from the thrift store, but I'm finding it harder than I thought it would be to come up with gender neutral textiles.

Being one that likes to prepare, I've been surprised at how not worried I've been about having things ready for Baby's arrival. My sister has given us a car seat and many other goodies, and we registered for some of the necessities like crib sheets, burp clothes, and a stroller, but so many of the gizmos and gadgets out there seem so extravagant that we've decided our strategy would be to wait and see what we need. But then last night when I came home from an out-of-town job to find that Winn had begun the process of skim-coating the nursery walls, I guess it made me kind of excited. Our little one might not have to sleep in our closet after all!

I'll leave you with a few snippets of inspiration I've found so far...

Simple bedding:

A bold piece of furniture:

And a plate rack bookshelf:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

the BEST tomato soup.

By popular demand, I give you...

Garden Tomato Soup

1 cup chopped celery
1 small chopped onion
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 small green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup butter
4 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
4 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes (about 7 medium)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour

In a 3 quart saucepan, saute celery, onion, carrots, and green pepper in butter until tender. Add 4 cups of the broth, tomatoes, sugar, curry, salt, pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. In a small bowl, stir remaining broth and flour until smooth. Gradually stir into tomato mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly (about 2 minutes).

**Note: I didn't have any celery on hand, so I left that out. I didn't have any curry powder either, so I substituted 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder instead. I used a jar of canned tomatoes from our garden, just cooking them down instead of chopping them, and it was mouth-watering! Thank you, Aunt Janice, for the recipe!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

the crouton routine.

I love croutons. Sometimes I just sit and eat them like they're potato chips. I like to make them because we seem to always have lots of leftover bread and because it makes the kitchen smell heavenly while they're baking. In case you're interested, here's the method to my madness...

* Whenever we have a heel or a partial loaf that's getting old and stale or one or two hamburger buns leftover, I throw the bag in the freezer. Then when the freezer is bursting at the seams with bags of old bread (as ours was today, evidenced by the amount of empty bags shown below), it's time to make a batch of croutons!

* First I throw all the bread bags in the refrigerator to thaw for a day or so (it always gets soggy if I thaw it on the counter). When it's all thawed, I remove the bread from the bags, chop it into small squares, and mix all together in a large bowl (this way we end up with a nice blend of white, whole grain, sour dough, rye, or whatever array happens to be in the freezer at the time).

* At this point I might notice Farm Dog staring longingly through the kitchen window and drooling at the sight of his absolute favorite snack on this earth (no matter how old and stale it is). And I might invite him in for a couple slices that accidentally fell on the floor.

* Next I melt one stick of butter (for each bowl full of bread pieces) and add seasonings to it. I like to use about a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of French fry seasoning, a half teaspoon of pepper, and a half teaspoon of onion powder. But it's not an exact science, and sometimes I experiment with different seasonings.

* I then pour the seasoned butter over the bread pieces and toss in the bowl until it's evenly coated, spread onto a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees until crispy (about 30 minutes). We store them in a large Tupperware container and usually run out around the time that the freezer is overflowing with old bread again...

We had some of today's batch for dinner in our tomato soup. I'll have to share that recipe with you sometime when it's not so's from Winn's Aunt Janice, and it is hands-down the best tomato soup I have ever tasted. But for now, my new body pillow and I are off to bed. Sweet dreams, everyone!

Coming soon: Handmade Christmas No. 4

Monday, January 11, 2010

Handmade Christmas No. 3: Carry-along Felt Barn

My little friend Ashton (2 1/2 years old) likes barns and, because we have a barn, calls all barns "Betsy's Barn." So for Christmas I came across this nifty tutorial and thought I would make him his own Betsy's Barn. I tweaked it just a bit, making it bigger, giving it Velcro fasteners, and using polar fleece sleeves around the plastic canvas rather than quilt batting. I tossed in a tube of plastic farm animals from Michael's craft store, and here is what came of it...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Handmade Christmas No. 2: Kissing Ball

Bet you thought I had forgotten, didn't you? I almost did. But almost doesn't count. Now that I'm warm and fed and our truck is unstuck (from the snow drifts in our own driveway), I am ready to show you the mistletoe.

I made kissing balls for three friends this Christmas. You hang them in the doorway and you're careful who you are next to when you stop underneath them. ;) It was a fun and simple project, requiring the following materials: 4-6" grapevine ball, red berries and/or other florals, ribbon, and a hot glue gun.

Up next: a travel toy for tots.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Handmade Christmas No. 1: Heritage Shelf

Despite much whining and protesting from certain family members about doing a handmade Christmas gift exchange this year, I think it was a complete success (and you have to admit it was too, sister mine). It was so much fun to see everyone's creativity come out in their clever gift ideas. There was everything from woodcrafted lawn games and magic tricks to a week's supply of freezer meals to handstitched mittens, scarves, purses, and aprons. I wish I would have thought to take photos of them all.

I had my sister-in-law Sarah's name and made her a heritage shelf (inspired by my friend Andrea). I found an old shelf at a thrift store for $1.99...

Then I removed the heart cutouts in the corners, as well as a couple of the little cubby dividers, and painted it, sanding the edges to give it a more rustic look...

Next I chose several photos from their wedding last summer and turned them into black and white prints in the appropriate sizes, decoupaging them onto the back surface of the shelf. Finally, I painted some wooden letters and glued them to the smallest cubbies and finished the project with a few coats of clear spray sealant...

Coming tommorrow: Under the Mistletoe.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hello New Year.

May you bring:
More frequent posting; a finished mudroom/office/nursery/attic/upstairs bathroom/chicken coop/wrap-around porch; disciplined meditation time; a healthy baby; enough coins in the piggy bank for a Canon digital SLR; better communication (including listening) skills; fewer insecurities; deeper friendships; and easier laughter.

I hope you all had a warm and fuzzy gift-giving, holly-hanging, family-seeing, junk food-eating, photo-taking, past-reflecting, Christchild-honoring Christmas season! After celebrating in Minnesota, Colorado, and Minnesota again, we are finally wrapping up the festivities for another year and slowly welcoming routine again, picking up the remains of several parties, stripping beds, doing laundry, restocking the cupboards, getting back to work, sorting through emails, and trying to cut back on our sweets and caffeine consumption after a three-week sugar high.

(Paxton reading the Christmas story with Grandpa)

And now that the handmade gifts have been given, I can finally share with you some of my fun December projects! I'll be back tomorrow with the first one...