Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

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It’s 12:22 AM, Christmas morning. We just finished getting presents under the tree, stockings hung, tonight’s goodies out of the car, tomorrow’s goodies into the car, and all the kiddies are snug in their bed, coughing away as we try to wind down for the night. It’s been quite an Advent. Not very comfortable, not very pretty. But in our hearts we prepared for today with everything we had to offer. This year I felt very much like the Little Drummer Boy, and my humble gift to the King was each day trying to be what I’m supposed to be, the best way I can. Even in difficult times I feel the real blessing of Christmas, and I’m so grateful for that blessed babe in a manger who came to separate true happiness from mere circumstances.

Happy Christmas to you and me!! See you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From the Kitchen: Tinsel Tree Gingerbread Cut Out Cookies

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I can’t believe this is my 4th (or is it my 5th?) Christmas blogging here and I haven’t yet shared my gingerbread cut out recipe. Well, it was requested by my fabulous neighbor DeeDee, so here it is!! I like requests because they make me see past the mile-long to-do list and do something a little more gratifying for a couple minutes :) I had already photographed them in an optimistic hour during one successful naptime, so I was able to share this year’s batch with you. Enjoy with friends!


Classic Gingerbread for Cut Out Cookies


Ingredients

· 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
· 1 teaspoon baking soda
· ½ teaspoon baking powder
· 1 cup butter
· 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
· 4 teaspoons ground ginger
· 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
· 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
· 1½ teaspoons salt
· 2 large eggs
· 1 cup molasses
Directions
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture and combine on low speed. 
Divide dough in thirds and wrap in plastic and flatten into approximately 1” bricks. Chill for about 1 hour. Heat oven to 350°. On a heavily floured surface, roll dough 1/8”-1/4” thick (depending on preference). Cut into desired shapes. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets. If dough will not hold shape well, refrigerate cut-outs for 15 minutes before baking. If dough is too stiff to roll without cracking, allow to warm up before rolling and cutting. 
Bake about 8 to10 minutes, until puffed but not darkened, or longer if you prefer crispier cookies. Allow cookies to cool on wire racks, and then decorate as desired.
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As you can see, I opted out of the traditional cookie cutter method for these. I thought it would be quicker to cut them with a pastry wheel (that rotary thing is used for pie crusts, they tell me, though I don’t make pies). Hmm. Let’s just say that the cutting and baking is the fast part, so I didn’t realize my dream of speedy completion. But I love the end result and it was worth the work, as always :) They remind me of A Charlie Brown Christmas (watch teh first couple seconds and then go to 2:43 in the video to watch my favorite part!). I like to roll these thick (1/4”-ish) and bake them to be softer and chewier than most gingerbread tends to be, but feel free to follow your instincts and/or traditional preferences to make them your own.

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I use the royal icing recipe here (I generally use about half the meringue powder that Martha suggests because I don’t like the taste of it in my icing). I decorated them simply with some really pricey metallic sanding sugar from Williams-Sonoma. As much as I love browsing the store and catalog, Williams-Sonoma is not a place I normally shop for myself, but I love the look of these edible tinsel trees and I have a ton left over for future cookie decorating needs. Sometimes a little kitchen upgrade goes a long way, especially for cookies made to be given away.

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Happy Advent! I hope to be back before Christmas with more cookies…

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Real Life: Advent Snapshot

I’m starting a new section. The purpose of posts titled “Real Life” will highlight just how easy it is to crop out and gloss over the unpleasantries when blogging. I’m real, you’re real. I have little irksome tasks that don’t get accomplished every day, moreso when I cook, bake, make and create all the things that are so much fun to blog about. I’m sure you do to.

My morning:

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So cute, right? Look at him. Sweet chubby shiny-eyed baby with a Christmas blanket. Adorable. Don’t you just want to nibble those cheeks and snuggle him??

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True, but harder to see all that cuteness when I don’t artfully omit FROM THE VERY SAME PHOTO….

  1. Undecorated artificial tree (except a few candy canes in the kid-reachable areas).
  2. Toy hockey net from yesterday’s play.
  3. Long-term Playdoh storage in random Ikea bins, bane of my dining room.
  4. CRUMBS!!! Almost always there.
  5. Animal flashcards abandoned by bigger kids.
  6. Stuff hidden behind the couch because I don’t have room anywhere else.
  7. Yep, that’s the tree skirt he removed from the tree. Himself. By crawling.
  8. More crumbs! Under the rug fringe. It happens.

Today I’m going to TRY to do something other than clean, feed and cook. Because that’s what I mostly do these days, and I need a break. The crumbs can stay. The tree skirt can live in the middle of the floor. I’m going to tackle some FUN projects. Maybe sew. Maybe design Christmas cards. Maybe make some future blog posts (I have so much to share, and no time to share it!). Tomorrow I’ll pay but it will be worth it for a mini-creative vacation from the routine. We all need that now and again to keep our sanity amidst the… crumbs :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Life in a Nutshell: Facebook is not Reality

I recently had a wonderful Facebook chat with 2 real-life friends who currently live in other states. It was like a girls’ night out, but digital. In our discussion it came up that sometimes we all feel down because we are constantly getting the impression that everyone else has rosy lives filled daily with delicious and attractive meals eaten with perfectly satisfied husbands and clean and helpful children who never have tantrums at school and positively never ever pick their noses. And other such impossible realities. The truth of the matter is that Facebook lies to us.

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On Facebook, like on many blogs, we only see the really notable aspects of someone’s life, generally the most photogenic or comment-worthy. We see pictures of their wedding, new babies, vacations, reunions, New Year’s Eve parties. We don’t see those same people feeling miserable or doing mundane activities. You know, the stuff we deal with regularly that doesn’t feel notable or particularly satisfying. In March this year, the journal Pediatrics published a paper on “Facebook depression”, a phenomenon among teens and tweens (and to a lesser extent all users of social media). The findings indicated a correlation between depression and usage of social media, though there is no consensus on which came first. Apparently we all like to stuff our electronic bras, selectively sharing our lives with the world at large in a way that gives the best impression. It’s a natural reaction to an unnatural information society, free of context or body language - a vicious cycle in which our perceived worth is as simple as the number of people who read our updated statuses.

I try to keep it real here, but it’s human nature to make others think we have our act together. We don’t like to feel incompetent or pitiable. In a recent post I whined about how busy and scattered I am, and I do genuinely feel very much that way most mornings these days. But I am optimistic (because I need to be to survive my life right now) and sometimes I might be doing you a disservice by not disclosing more aspects of my less-than-perfect life. So here we go! A good confession is truly cathartic, so I expect to feel better by the end of this as well.

I can be shamefully disorganized at times. For example, my work room:

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Do you like that I have a watermark on that photo? Don’t you dare go trying to put my “studio” on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens now, or I might get litigious. That was an admittedly bad day (thwarted cleaning/organizing in addition to a rain-induced leak in my work area). But still. Would you want to try to work there? I also had some recent shameful disorganization-related incidents at social functions, nearly-missed appointments, etc. I just renewed some library books that were due with mere minutes to spare. My kids aren’t always clean…

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or dressed properly,

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or polite.  

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I cook ugly food most nights for dinner, if I cook at all. 

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And sometimes my best efforts just plain fail.

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(those were supposed to be lighthouse-shaped cookies!!)

I always do my best, but sometimes my best isn’t really something I think you’d want to read about. That’s been happening a lot lately given our family circumstances, and it is partly the cause for fewer posts than I’d like. But it’s my new resolution to be more honest, so hopefully that’ll translate into more posts. Shorter, less entertaining, uglier posts.

See you real soon :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

From the Kitchen: Garlic Breadsticks

Mmmm… I’m in carb heaven just thinking about these. They’re essentially a knock-off version of what Olive Garden dishes out, and they are fantastic. They’d really impress with any home-cooked Italian meal for your next at-home date night...

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Garlic Breadsticks

Dough Ingredients:

1 1/2 c warm water

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

4 1/4 c all-purpose flour

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

Garlic Butter Ingredients:

4 tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

Directions:

(Normally I’d use my bread machine for this, but this recipe is too large to fit!!) In your stand mixer, follow directions for making dough with dough ingredients. Allow dough to rise in a greased bowl in warm location until doubled. Punch down and cut into 16 equal pieces. Grease 2 cookie sheets, and form breadsticks with each dough piece and lay on cookie sheet. Allow to rise for about 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees and mix the garlic butter ingredients together in a small bowl. Bake breadsticks for 6-7 minutes, then baste with garlic butter. Return to oven for 6-7 more minutes and then baste again. Serve hot!

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Mmmm… resistance is futile…

Thursday, November 3, 2011

From the Kitchen: Creamy Garlic Shrimp with Rotini

These lackluster photos have been sitting around waiting to be blogged, but I made it again for dinner recently and realized that I hadn’t shared it deliciousness with all of you. Loved it as leftovers too. Yum. The photos are really not good at all, but when you’ve got a hungry family waiting for you to take pictures of the food so they can eat, you don’t take your time. Since I use this as my online recipe box, blogging it also serves my selfish organizational purposes. Mwa ha ha…

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Creamy Garlic Shrimp with Rotini

Ingredients:

1 box (14.5-16 oz) rotini

3 tbsp oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 small zucchini, cubed (can substitute any vegetables you like)

4 cloves garlic, pressed

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup diced pickled red pepper (optional but good if you have it around)

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (please please please do NOT substitute for other “parmesan” cheeses! for the love of all that is holy!)

2 cups peeled, cooked, thawed shrimp (can use frozen, fresh, whatever… as long as it’s peeled and cooked before you use it here!)

Directions:

Prepare pasta, set aside and keep warm. Heat oil in pan and add vegetables, salt and pepper. Sauté the onion, zucchini, and garlic until tender and fragrant. Add pickled pepper. Reduce heat to low and add cream and cheese until very hot. Add shrimp and heat through. Remove from heat and mix well with hot pasta. Serve immediately and enjoy!!

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I think the secret here is the sauce. It’s so very easy and basic, but really delivers on flavor. If you don’t keep a wedge of parmigiano reggiano cheese in your fridge, you should. Nothing at all like pre-grated parmesan cheese, this packs a flavor punch and a little goes a long way. It lasts an eternity in your fridge, so it’ll get used up eventually. Trust me. This pasta dish would ideally be served with garlic breadsticks (is there a pasta dish that wouldn’t go well with fresh, carb-loaded garlicky goodness?), so tomorrow I’ll post about those! See you then :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Life in a Nutshell: Minutiae

My mind for 5 minutes this morning:

“Please finish eating, N, it’s almost time to go!” Don’t forget to put fruit snacks in K’s backpack. “Please give this t-shirt to your teacher so you have it when it’s time to dye for your pow wow.” Must start the dishwasher so we have plates for lunch. Is it nap time for the baby yet? He’s getting fussy. “OK, baby, don’t cry! I’ll get you out of that high chair!” More spilled milk? That is the second day in a row K has done that! “Please get a wiper and clean that up. Be more careful next time or we’ll have to go back to sippy cups."” Don’t forget to re-wipe that when she’s done. Put lunch in N’s backpack. And sign her day planner. Is M awake yet? Does he have any long pants in his dresser? Did I put away the kid laundry or is it still in the basement? I don’t remember. “N, let me brush your hair. There. Now get ready to go. I can’t walk with you today but I’ll wave out the front window. You can scooter. Your gloves are in your helmet. Have a great day… love you!” There’s M… he found some pants. “Your breakfast is on the table, bud.” Wave out the window. “Please get the broom and clean that cereal up before someone steps on it and the mess is bigger.”Shoot! I forgot to give N her asthma meds before she left. But I can still dose M. “M! Come here, guy! Drink that. Now the nose stuff. Now do your puffs.” I suppose now would be a good time to dole out some vitamins. Is everyone done eating? Now run the dishwasher before you forget. Oooh, and switch those rugs into the dryer. I wonder if the toothpaste came out. Grab that bin while you’re in the basement so you don’t have to run down again. What are you going to cook for dinner? Fussy baby. “M, can you please give the baby a toy? Thanks, guy!” Better sweep before that cereal migrates to the carpet. But he did a pretty good job this time, didn’t he? Oh, it’s gooey! That’s right, the milk. Where’s that dish rag? What is this paper on the floor? Someone’s homework? Better ask before you toss it. I better make some breakfast for myself soon. Don’t forget to call Cindy. Check the calendar for next week first…

As I ponder my life as it is and why I generally feel overwhelmed at this particular time, I am coming to the realization that it isn’t over-commitment that is causing this feeling like my brain will explode. It’s just that I have an endless train of minutiae chugging through my head, and it doesn’t need to stop to refuel. I have some ideas about how to combat this necessary aspect of mothering multiple youngsters, and I’ll share as I figure it out. But right now I had better go deal with some more tiny tasks before they cause a problem…

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Product Review: Ott Lite Daylight CFL Bulb

My mom has been talking about Ott Lites for a while now. All I knew, until very recently, was that they were supposed to be great for seeing true color… generally marketed to quilters trying to match colors. But they are soooo expensive! The lamps sell anywhere from $50 to $300, depending on the model. The bulbs, specific to that brand, were also very expensive. I had never seriously considered buying one for myself.

But I just happened to be at the fabric store when they just happened to be having a major sale (surprised?), and all the Ott Lite merchandise was 50% off. When I walked by, I noticed the bulbs. They actually had ones that worked in a standard socket. I could get a 100W incandescent replacement CFL for $7.50. That’s still expensive in my book, but for my basement work room, I wanted to try it out and see if it was worth the hype. I bought 3, just in case, and planned to return them if I wasn’t $7.50 thrilled with them.

When I got home, I removed the CFL that was in my cutting table pendent lamp and put in the Ott Lite. I flipped the switch and it was a glorious moment where a skylight opened into my basement and poured forth heaven’s rays on my work surface (cue the angel choirs).

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OK… it wasn’t quite The Rapture I make it out to be, but it was still pretty flippin’ AMAZING. It really did feel like natural light. My doctor had suggested a sunlamp to aid with seasonal depression and vitamin D deficiency in our cold wintry northern clime, and I think these will help make me happier chugging away at projects in my subterranean studio this winter, if only because it reduces the feeling that I’m in a basement. Ott Lite doesn't make any claims to better health other than that their light reduces eye strain, so I’m guessing that studies haven’t proven any anti-depressant qualities. But I’ll keep you posted about that. In addition to better light, these bulbs have the same benefits of ordinary CFLs… much cheaper, less energy waste as heat, longer life span. Ott Lites also have a 1 year manufacturers warranty against defects. I am so satisfied with my new light source that I can honestly say it was worth every penny, and would have been at full price too. But I might go back and snatch up a few more while they’re still half off :)

*Update: I haven’t even posted this yet, but it was waiting for publication when I heard this from OttLite after a Facebook discussion where a friend mentioned that she was hoping OttLite bulbs would help with seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.): “...Believe it or not, Dr. Ott worked with Johns Hopkins using our lighting for S.A.D. patient treatment so although we can't legally make medical claims, I think OttLite might really help you…” Cool! Not a claim, but it might. Which is better than not, eh?*

Monday, October 17, 2011

Off the Shelf: Organizing for your Brain Type

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So, I just checked out the  book Organizing for your Brain Type from our local library. After reading the back cover, I didn’t bother reading the intro or taking the quiz to determine my brain type… I knew immediately which I was. I read ‘brain type’ as ‘temperament’ (as I discussed here), and it was really helpful and edifying to finally understand why sanguine people like me function the way I do (though it feels like I don’t function right now!). Sanguine types, the “innovating style” of brain type, are energized by new projects but struggle to fully complete them, frequently have stacks of stuff all over the place, have trouble remembering appointments, lose things, etc. Perhaps I’m generally a high functioning sanguine, but it’s all a rouse… deep down I’m a mess!

This is the first book that I've seen that actually acknowledged that some people simply cannot stick to a classic routine. It offered practical tips to make life less stressful and create systems that will actually work towards a more organized life. I crave flexibility, and right now I’m trapped in a non-negotiably rigid schedule with the school kids and baby naps, so I feel a bit like I’m suffocating. Since my husband is also a sanguine personality type (we do have a lot of fun together!), it was extra helpful for me to see ways to make our life and home better for him too. I'm desperate for a working system for our house and schedule since I'm drowning in commitments, papers and “stuff”, and this book was really encouraging. Thank you, public library.

I can’t speak for the usefulness of the advice for other “brain types”, but if you are a creative type, I'd highly recommend Organizing for your Brain Type as an essential read. A+

Friday, October 7, 2011

Get Crafty: Waldorf Doll

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My girls have always always been interested in animals. Nary was a baby doll to be coddled in our house. Until recently, that is. My 7 year old adopted a baby boy doll from her 4 year old brother about the time our new baby was born in April. This doll was named Triceratops despite being fully human and having zero horns on his face, and he has become a favorite plaything. I was thrilled to see her exhibit compassion to a human thing (you know, sometimes you wonder). After this, they girls began talking about me possibly making a cousin for Triceratops for my 5 year old. Certainly!! I want to encourage play mothering so they will be good babysitters when they are old enough, so I began researching Waldorf dolls.

Then I ordered supplies here. I used their tutorial for creating the head. I embroidered the eyes and mouth, and Mary Kay provided the sweet pink cheeks. I used this pattern for making the body (scroll all the way down to find the link to the pattern). I eyeballed a knit onesie and made a basic hat to keep her warm until I obtained brown yarn.

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I read this post before adding the hair, a lovely multitonal auburn wool I found on clearance at a local yarn shop. And then I found a vintage doll slip via thrift shop to keep her decent until I sew some dresses and other outfits (that is the fun of having a doll, right?). I plan to help my daughters sew some clothes too as an educational experience, since they always sees me sewing and are very interested.

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Yep. I think she’s a keeper.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Life in a Nutshell: Newborn No More

My beautiful baby boy is 6 months old! How did that happen?
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(He’s posing on my Disappearing 9 Patch quilt… blogged here and here).
Hope you have a nose-wrinklingly wonderful day!

Monday, September 19, 2011

From the Kitchen: My Full-Size Sheet Cake Adventure

*Here’s a little catch-you-up post from the heat summer… I started it but never finished it, possibly due to lack of final product photos...? Oh well. In an effort not to have wasted that time, here it finally is.*

I have many, many wonderful friends, and a particularly special set of them are celebrated their 10th anniversary this summer. They organized a vow renewal Mass and a reception for their family and friends, and were in need of a cake on a budget, and I was in need of a special gift for them. So… I just couldn’t help myself… I volunteered to make the cake.

I was being optimistic about my skills (I got to experiment with icing under the eye of a professional helped decorate a wedding cake once) and my available time (I was trying to keep it together with a 3 month old and 3 other kids had no babysitter). But I did it! I baked, frosted and decorated a giant cake to feed about 100 people! And it looked OK! Some parts even looked great! And it was very tasty. It took a long day, but I was proud that I accomplished it, and can now check this particular feat off my bucket list.

I baked four 11” by 17” pans… two white cake, two devil’s food. I was really nervous about cooking it thoroughly without toasting the edges, and having it bake evenly to avoid excessive doming. For each layer, I used 2 boxes of Betty Crocker cake mix, prepared with 1 extra egg per mix. I greased each pan, poked 2 flower nails (to help the center cook by conducting heat) through parchment paper to line the bottom of each pan, then greased that too. I baked them at 325 for about 38 minutes each, and flipped them successfully onto wire racks to cool after 10 minutes in the pan after baking. They domed a little, but were baked just right.

Getting them onto the board was tricky, but I was ultimately successful. I piped a buttercream dam around the edge to hold the filling (a chocolate Bavarian cream mousse on the chocolate cake, and a strawberry peach cream mousse on the vanilla).  I then awkwardly managed to get the two top layer cakes on almost straight, and gave up trying to get them perfect to avoid tearing the cake. I leveled by eyeballing with a large thin bread knife.

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Then I did a little dirty icing (I prefer that term to “crumb coating” because it sounds like more fun, don’t you think?). I am no good with thin layers, and I needed some depth to cover a multitude of ugliness underneath, but it worked. It was finally iced, as smoothly as I was willing to work for, with no visible crumbs. Hooray!

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I used a toothpick to draw a heart on the top to define the area for text, then used a red thread as a rough guide to help me write in straight lines. It didn’t work… my writing on this cake was terrible. It was mostly straight, but I used a calligraphy tip I had never used before (big mistake), didn’t plan out exactly where the text would go, and it didn’t help that I was leaning over the gigantic cake in a weird way to avoid a) smashing it and b) further straining my already strained back. Meh. I’ll eventually get over it, and all my friends were much too polite to comment.

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Then I slapped on a piped pearl border and some buttercream roses. Don’t I make it sound easy?  Well, it wasn’t, actually. They were difficult for me and took a long time. It was good practice though, and maybe the next time I’ll make them it won’t be in a hot, humid house destined to wilt even the stiffest butter-based icing. The end result looked good enough to me.

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Then I added leaves (those really were easy), and it was done! Frosted, it measures about 23” by 1” by 4”, and is the cake equivalent of about 192 cupcakes. Dangerous. I would have liked to have weighed it, just out of gross curiosity, but since I couldn’t even lift it by myself, that was never going to happen.

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Ta da! One giant cake. Final cost… about $40 and 6 hours of my time, but the experience was priceless.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Get Crafty: Bunting Birthday Banner

Today my baby… my oldest baby… turned seven! My how the time flies  when you’re having fun :)

For a long time I had wanted to make a reusable birthday banner for the family - something to easily put up and take down, that complemented our decor and which would last many years. Just yesterday, an unexpected request came in from one of my very favorite local portrait photographers, Melanie Reyes, for a cute wedding/engagement banner, and that started me off with a close deadline to get something done in this vein. The birthday banner tested my planned process, and I’m happy to say that today I succeeded! I’m terribly impressed with the accuracy of my process and the overall end result...

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We celebrated the big day with an unexpected roast turkey Thanksgiving-type dinner (our garage freezer died several days ago, so the partially thawed turkey found gainful employ in feeding tonight’s crowd). The vintage garden-inspired banner added to a festive atmosphere and, since it rained, we stayed inside and it was actually seen by our guests rather than just noted in passing. It makes me happy, just like my wonderful daughter, and I look forward to keeping them both around for many, many birthdays to come.

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Happy birthday, honey bun… I’m so lucky to be your mom!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From the Kitchen: Chicken and Pasta in Lemon Cream Sauce

This recipe was a bit of a surprise winner, actually. I wasn’t sure if the lemon would go over, but I needed to use up some cooked chicken (long story) and my husband required pasta before last night’s hockey game. I used several recipes for inspiration, then just worked with what I had on hand. It was easy, tasty and filling. Cooking the pasta in the broth gave a real depth of flavor to the dish, and my husband, after one bite, said, “This is good… whatever it is.” I had debated adding some vegetables to the dish, like broccoli or zucchini, but at the last minute I decided to serve them raw with dinner because then my kids would eat them instead of picking them out (you know how it is). But you could add them in if you wanted.

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Ingredients:

6 cups water

4 chicken bouillon cubes or 4 tsp chicken soup base

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

juice of one lemon

1 tsp lemon zest

2 large cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced

1 lb pasta (I used bowties)

2 cups cooked chicken, pulled into bite-size chunks

1 cup sour cream

Directions:

Bring water to a boil. Add bouillon, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic. Add pasta and cook on medium until pasta is all dente and there is about 1/2 cup liquid left in the pot. Add chicken and continue heating for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream until well combined and creamy. It may still seem a bit runny, but the sauce will thicken as it stands. Serve hot and enjoy!

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I’m sure this recipe could be modified a million ways and still be wonderful – rice instead of pasta? roasted peppers in the sauce? mushrooms? - but the basic concept of creamy lemon was the big winner of the day. Unexpectedly extraordinary :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Get Crafty: Catholic Embroidery

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We are so blessed! Yesterday was the baptism of our 3rd godson, Daniel Xavier! He’s such a precious little bundle, as are all godchildren, and we are so excited to have a little bit of responsibility for him as he grows and becomes who God intended him to be. And special days call for special projects, so I decided to embroider a baptismal stole for him, inspired by one that was handmade for my son Michael. I wanted it to not only be made by me, but to be made just for him. Daniel was named after the biblical Daniel of the Lion’s Den, so it was appropriate to incorporate the image of a lion as a symbol of his namesake. I’m no whiz at embroidery, but I think it turned out pretty great!

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I designed the embroidery pattern myself, and used a trick to get it on the fabric (would only work with light colored fabric, I think). I found a lion shape I liked from Google images, and inserted it into a Word document. I then added the text in a script font, centered the whole thing, and traced it onto the fabric directly on the screen like a lightbox. I taped the white cotton fabric in place and gently used a silver fabric marking pencil, and it worked like a dream. I did the same for the chi rho symbols. The fabric I used measured 6.5” by 24.5”, and I sewed it along the ends and one long side after embroidering, so the finished dimensions were 3” by 24”.

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Our second godson was baptized a little over a month ago, and I was so disappointed to see that our church (wonderful though it is), provided a stole that was made of polyester felt. I’m a snob about quality materials, and my insides felt sad at this discovery. Every other stole I had seen was a respectable white cotton with a red chi rho symbol machine embroidered on it. I had thought about making a stole for little Andrew Paul, and I kicked myself for not trying it at that point. Just another reason I was not going to miss this current opportunity. Andrew did, however, get a very cute wooden saint doll made by St. Anne’s Pixies on Etsy, a great Catholic mama and talented artist, and this was a personalized, play-with-able, baptismally-appropriate gift that I was very proud to give.

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Our first godson, Eugene Joseph, got neither stole nor saint doll, but I made him his baptismal garment. I was no experienced seamstress then, nearly 8 years ago, but I am still proud that I was able to do something meaningful for him. Let me see if I can dig up an ancient photo… ah, there we go… it’s humble, but it got the job done :)

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I just love baptisms. And the smell of chrism. And sweet little newborn babies…