Friday, May 29, 2009

Holy figure flaws Batman!

There probably isn't a more humbling experience than getting a life size picture of what you really look like in all your glory. Well, if you recall I recently purchased a dress form. I finally got a chance last night to customize it by padding it up to match my own measurements. The entire process took me about 1 1/2 hours to complete, including taking the measurements (with a bit of assistance from Mister). It's glaringly obvious that I'm shaped like a pear and not in a good way. Thanks to four kids and four c-sections my once trim waistline is no more (regardless of how many spin classes I take). There was no getting around it as I continued to pad the dress forms middle until I thought, what the heck...I might want to start saving up for that tummy tuck. I also never realized how short waisted I look. I mean there was almost no definition between my breast and my waist or what should be my waist but what is in all actuality a solid line from my breast to my stomach. And that lumpiness you see along the hips, well I thought it was essential I try to capture all my curves, uh...lumps. I'm not being down on my self. I'm just facing the harsh reality of what I have to work with. All in all though, I'm still thrilled to have a form and to be able to make clothes with my own hand that will fit my own body, whatever flaws that body might have.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The illusion of the perfect blog life

My friend Dawn and I were chatting about which blogs we frequent and why. I have to admit there are a few oh so popular blogs that I just don't enjoy. Part of it is that I feel like they represent an image of a type of life and lifestyle that is a fantasy and difficult to maintain, yet its put forth as the reality of their lives. Ok, call me a hater and perhaps their lives are just that blissful but as my 7 year old would say "COME ON!". I don't know anyone living or dead with 4 children who doesn't spend their day stooped over like an old crone picking up stuff just to maintain some semblance of a clean and orderly home. I don't know anyone who sets a group of small children loose to paint and doesn't end up with paint somewhere they don't want it. I'm not being judgemental, I'm really just pointing out the obvious. All these sweet, staged photos of "corners of my life" or of a child quietly reading on a quilt made with the fiber they spun themselves after sheering their own organically fed sheep gives me the hives. It's giving the rest of a complex. Surely, we must not have gotten the memo telling us how to have that life too. I guess if I have to be fair, it's sort of like looking at a fashion magazine or watching Martha Stewart on tv. We all think, wow that's neat, I'd like to have or do that. But we all know that it takes a team to put that image together and in the end it's really just a's not real. I don't want my home or my life to look like it just flew off the pages of some magazine.
The blogs I really dig are the ones from real folks, the moms who blog about the burnt toast or the near nervous breakdown they thought about having. The ones I love are the ones from people who aren't afraid to show their imperfections. Now that's life, that's reality. Those are my peeps.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

All quilt, all the time. I'm going to do some hardcore sewing today. I'm almost, okay actually more like half way done with the quilt I'm working on. But, I will finish it well ahead of the deadline, woo hoo. I might be able to get into this quilting thing since it's turning out much better than I could have imagined. I also seriously need to decide if I'm going to do end of the year teachers gifts. I think it's a weird peer pressure thing around here, but I also know that teachers are underpaid and under appreciated. I really like M.'s teacher so I'll probably do a couple of market bags or something for her. I should be able to whip those up pretty fast, no pattern needed.
Interesting sidebar in my quilting adventures to share. You may know that I love vintage machines and have a few. Well, I've been piecing the quilt top on my lovely Viking, Brownie (I know so original, right). Well, last evening when I was working on attaching one of the borders and I noticed the upper thread tension was just awful. Now you must understand that my Brownie is absolute sewing perfection and I had a real full blown panic attack when I thought something was wrong with it. I rethreaded it (always a simple place to start your troubleshooting). Made sure the bobbin was in correctly, changed the needle. I even broke out my manual. I had to crank the tension way up just to get the stitch a bit tight, but it still looked awful and so different from Brownies normal stitch. What could be wrong? Finally I thought, hmmm...let me change the thread. I had been using a small spool of cream color Coats and Clark XP. I don't have a problem with C&C thread, although I prefer mettler or gutterman, but you know those sales will get you every time. However, something I hadn't noticed was that the thread was considered "heavy". I must have purchased it to sew purses and grabbed it without thinking. Brownie did not like it at all. She's a girl who knows what she likes and C&C ain't it. I switched it out for some gutterman and holding my breath I made a test sample and it was gorgeous as always. I'm not ashamed to admit that I almost started crying when I thought something was wrong with my Brownie. I know it silly, but there it is. Luckily it was an easy fix and I'm back with my foot to the pedal sewing away.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday's Meal

Well, it's Memorial Day and of course that brings to mind so many things. First, a hearty thank you to all the service men and women as well as there families that serve our country so proudly. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Secondly, it brings to mind barbecue. I love barbecue, but having grown up in cattle country and been transplanted to swine land I'm often conflicted about which I like best, the cow or the pig (if you must know, it's the cow). But, there's no question in my mind what the appropriate accompaniment to bbq. should be and that's potato salad. And none of that new age baked potato salad crap for me, I'm talking good old southern style potato salad. I never think I make it quite as good as my mom's but I keep trying and one day I'll get there.

Southern Style Potato Salad

4 potatoes (russets are best, but you can use red or gold too)
4 eggs. boiled and sliced
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup sweet relish
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
1 tsp of paprika
salt and pepper to the taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes; drain and chop. Place your potatoes in a large bowl and toss them with the vinegar, set them aside. In a medium bowl, combine the celery, sweet relish, garlic, onions, mustard, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and pepper. Gently fold the dressing into the potatoes, mixing well. Place the sliced eggs on top and sprinkle with paprika. Chill before serving or if you prefer you can serve it warm, it's your choice.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Doppleganger

I'm so excited! After years of wanting one, I finally bought a dress form. But not just any one, I got a Fabulous Fit dress form. Just like they use on project runway (which I've not seen, by the way). It's super cool and you're suppose to be able o customize it so that it's a duplicate of your actual figure. It came with a bunch of foam pads to accomplish this. I think they run close to $400 with the shipping and all, but I got mine off Craigslist for about 60% less, woohoo super score! I hope it helps me feel motivated to sew more for myself. As I've shared before I have an insane amount of fabric and patterns and tons of ideas...but very little actual time to sew. I really want to make more stuff for myself this year. I think I'll call her Serena since that rhymes with my name. I still need to take a bunch of measurement a pad her up. But, I thought you might enjoy meeting her. So, here she is in all her headless armless glory.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Well, my head is spinning with all the things I want to work on. However, I actually think I'm going to spring clean the boys bedroom. It could really use a deep cleaning. It's been awhile since I really got in there and looked at what might be under the bed or growing in the corner. It will probably take me the better part of the day even though it's a pretty small room, but that's what Work on it Wednesday is all about. On a side note, I've been using my household cleaning schedule and spending far less time on the internet. So far, so good.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday's Meal

The other day I was at Trader Joe's (home of cheap wine) and it got me to thinking about Sangria. The weather has started to be warmer and I had images of myself sitting on my patio with a frosty pitcher of Sangria, sipping and relaxing. So, I thought, hey that's the recipe I need to share for this week, sangria.

Summer Sangria

1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
1/3 cup orange juice
1 bottle dry red wine (the cheaper, the better)
1/2 cup triple sec
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, slice
1 lime, sliced
1/4 cup white sugar
maraschino cherries

In a large pitcher mix together the brandy, lemon juice, lemonade concentrate, orange juice, red wine, triple sec, and sugar. Float slices of lemon, orange and lime, and maraschino cherries in the mixture. Refrigerate overnight if you can wait, but if you can't wait drink up and enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Pretty Ballerina

Tomorrow is O's very first ballet recital. It's a really big deal. Even though she dances around here and I'm sure she knows the entire dance by heart, when out in public O. becomes very shy and reserved. The fact that she's excited about this makes me even more proud of her for even doing it. I thought I'd share some pictures of her all done up on her way to the dress rehearsal. I know I'm biased, but I think she looks gorgeous! I wasn't sure about the costume when I first saw it, but now that I see her in all her regalia I think she looks like a little flower. She even let me put her earrings back in and she was thrilled to be wearing pink lipstick. I'm sure over the years she'll be in lots of performances, but there really is nothing like that first one, is there?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Green Thumb?

Well, I'm so excited. I'm going to try for a little vegetable garden in our backyard. I've opted to do a square foot garden and have gathered bits of information from the library, online sources such as this site. and my local extension service. I posted on freecycle to get the wood to make my boxes and I was happy to receive some. Mister has a friend who is a landscaper so I'm going to get the soil from him. I will purchase the plants as inexpensively as I can from big box stores. It was recommended to me to do plants rather than seeds and I agree. I think it will be a really fun activity for the kids this summer and fall, plus I hope to be able to put up some of what we grow. I want to grow some tomatoes, some green beans, some herbs, some squash and maybe some melons.
Can't wait for everything to come in. Nothing like growing your own food to make you feel like a real earth mother, lol.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Today? Today it's all about errands. I need to go to the bank, I need to get the oil changed in my car, I need to pick up the items I still need for O.'s recital on Saturday. I need to run by the grocery store. I need to go pick up the wood for my square foot garden. I need to go to the library and pick up the books I have on reserve. I need to go purchase the paint for the 1/2 bathroom. I think that's it...that should keep me busy for awhile. Oh and when I finish that I plan to work on my socks. I'm almost done. I'm doing the toe decrease right now. I can see a few problems with them, like on one sock I must not have went in far enough in picking up the gusset stitches or else I dropped a stitch or something because I have a hole there. I'll fix it up when I finish. These are my practice cheap yarn socks to learn two at time sock knitting. The next pair I have planned are using some beautiful Colinette yarn that I paid about $23 dollars for a skein. Expensive socks! I don't want to screw those up so I'm working out the learning curve on some Encore Plymouth. Well, I better get going, busy day!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday's Meal

A favorite meal in our home is pasta. We love it and eat it often. This is a delicious casserole you can whip up in no time. It's a manicotti with a twist. Rather than your usual tube pasta you use store bought crepes to create filled tubes. I always think of manicotti as being meatless, however this one has a meat sauce. You could leave out the meat and it would still be excellent. You could also substitute the beef for another form of ground meat. Try it with a meatloaf mixture and it's out of this world!

Beef Manicotti

1 lb of ground beef
1 tbs of olive oil
1 cup celery, minced
1/2 cup carrots, minced
1/4 tsp salt
2 cans of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (or add these spices to plain cans to your desired amount, basil, garlic, oregano)
2 jars of your favorite marinara sauce
1 16 oz. container of ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
3/4 tsp of dried rosemary
8 ready to use crepes

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. In a large dutch oven or pot heat oil over a medium heat. Add the celery and carrots. Cook until softened. Add the beef and salt, cooking the meat until it is no longer pink. Add the tomatoes and the marinara sauce and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium- low cooking until thickened, approximately 40-45 mins. Be sure to stir occasionally so the sauce doesn't stick. While sauce is cooking, in a large bowl combine the ricotta, 1 1/2 cup of cheese blend, egg, parsley and rosemary. Divide the filling among the crepes, using a generous amount to cover 1/4 of crepe about 1" from the end. Roll up from filling end and place the seam side down. When the sauce is completed, spread 1/3 of it in the bottom of a 12 X 9 " baking dish. Place 4 filled crepes on top of the sauce and cover them with a 1/3 of the sauce and then repeat the process with the remain crepes and sauce. Top with your remaining cheese. Cover with foil. Bake until hot and bubbly and cheese on top is melted, approximately 30 minutes.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Things you can do with vinegar

Since becoming a mother I really have begun to think about the products I bring into my home. I try and use the minimal amount of chemicals I can. In fact I generally try and make my own cleaners. Many of them are just as good as the commercial ones and I've been amazed at how inexpensively you can create things. One of my most favorite items that serves numerous purposes in my home is vinegar. I generally get one of the industrial size gallons from the store and I'm set for quite awhile. So, what all can you do with vinegar you ask? Well, you can use in laundry. It's a great fabric softener, fabric freshener and stain remover. I used it a lot when I used cloth diapers. It's great in the outdoor to repel various insects such as ants and garden slugs. You can also dab some on your skin as a mosquito repellent. It can help in your garden by suppressing weeds or increasing the acidity in your soil. It can help prolong the life of picked flowers. As a household cleaner it's relatively non-toxic so it's safe around food and food prep areas. You can use it to clean your windows, clean your drains, use it to make an all-purpose cleaner. You can use it to clean out your coffee maker. You can use it to clean your floors, your toilet or to polish furniture. You can use it as an air freshener. You can use it in cooking, and it can generally be substituted in the place of lemon when the lemon is needed as an acid. It can also be substituted in baking in the place of an egg. You can use it to turn milk into buttermilk. I could go on and on, but I'll stop there. Next time you're at the store, pick up a bottle of vinegar, you'll be amazed what all that little bottle can do for you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

What I need to work on this week is my time management. More exact, I need to revamp my personal schedule. I have a personal daily schedule that I try and follow, along with a house cleaning schedule and I've let them slip a bit lately. I guess I've been feeling out of sorts and unmotivated, but honestly things in my life do run better when I have a bit of order to them. So, I'm dusting off my schedule, reviewing it for changes that need to be made and reimplementing it. I also have a home management binder that could use a review too. It contains everything I think I need to help manage our home. I used it faithfully for more than a year, but I got out of the habit and knowing what a valuable tool it is I need to put it back into use.
However, the big thing I notice about my day is that the computer is a big time suck. I know, it probably is for many of us. However when I followed my schedule more closely I only allotted myself small blocks of time throughout the day and not the unlimited surfathons that I can fall into. It was hard to break the habit initially but my quality of life was much improved by not spending so much time online. Hard to imagine, but it was. Also when I broke the house work into daily task, the house was much neater and I didn't feel as overwhelmed by the sheer task of cleaning up after 6 folks. It's funny because my friend and I were just talking about what an awesome resource the Internet is and how it so instant and how it helps connect you to the world. Especially if you're a stay at home mom. It's easy to feel isolated and disconnected if you're at home cut off from other adults and your life centers around your children and home. But with just a few clicks you can find a whole community of people who understand your dilemma. They are there for you any time of the day or night and there really is something to be said about that. However, I don't know if I need to be spending quite so much time with them (and I mean that in the nicest possible way, lol).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

WooHoo! Vacation Time!

It's been going by so fast. It's actually more of a staycation since I didn't have any big plans to go anywhere, just wanting to relax and regenerate. Boy I really needed it too! Lots going on here and I'm pretty worn out. I haven't gotten nearly the amount of crafting done that I wanted to, but isn't that always the way? I have finished a few UFO's that have been in my basket forever. I still have a bunch of undies that I've had cut out forever to sew up too. I went through my patterns and picked out some items to stitch up for myself too after realizing I really don't have any warm weather clothes. I have tons of jeans, but really no shorts and capris so I'm going to stitch those up along with my favorite self drafted A-line skirt.
Mostly, I've just been hanging out at home. It's nice to not really have any where to go and minimal things to do. That's my idea of a great vacation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday's Meal

You may recall me mentioning that I have quite a bit of chicken in my freezer? Well I'm working through it as quickly as I can. Here's a quick one to cook up for your crew.

Swiss Chicken Tenderlion Strips

1 package of chicken tenderloins
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of pepper
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of minced garlic
2 tbsp of lour
1 cup of chicken broth
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3 cups of shredded Swiss cheese

In a skillet heat your oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Saute the chicken until no longer pink, 5-7 mins approximately. Remove and set aside to drain. Next add the garlic to the skillet and saute it until tender. Stir in the flour, the broth and wine making sure they are well blended. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, cook until thickened. Reduce heat to low. Add Swiss cheese gradually, cooking and stirring constantly until it is completely melted. Make sure the sauce is well blended. Add the chicken back to the skillet and warm through.

You can serve this over rice, potatoes or a bed of fresh greens such as spinach. Eat up!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's finished

I just finished my first prayer shawl. It's not the LaLa Shawl that I'm also working on (this is why it's good to have lots of knitting needles so you can have lots of project in progress, lol) but one that I made as a gift. There were tons of mistakes, but I can say that boucle is quite forgiving and I went in and tightened up a few places. I don't know if you're actually suppose to do it that way, but it worked. I just need to block it and then get it in the mail. I think I like shawl knitting even more than sock.knitting. It was so relaxing and not too complicated, well the pattern I did which was K3P3 isn't complicated. It's the beginner standard shawl pattern from the very cool and worthy organization called Prayer Shawl Ministry, It's a faith based organization that makes shawls to donate to those who need them. You can read more about them and maybe pick up some knitting needles or a crochet hook to join in. Next I'm going back to the LaLa Shawl. I feel like a total slacker since I only have about 2 rows done and many in the KAL are already finished...but it wasn't a race, right? I'm also going to finish some socks that I had put aside. I'm to the heel. I'm knitting them 2 at a time on 2 circulars, which I can say I really like doing as opposed to dpn. Those pesky dpn gave me nothing but grief! I'm just not a good enough knitter to not get frustrated when I lose a bunch of stitches off my needles, in fact it put me over the edge!
Anyways, I promised myself I would be better about taking pictures. So I tried to photograph the shawl which proved somewhat challenging with me wearing it. Hopefully you'll get the gist of it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

You know you're a mom who sews when...

Yesterday I had the sweetest conversation with O. I was asking her what she wanted to do the next day. I wondered if she wanted to go to the gym with me? She said no, but that she would like to go to the fabric store. In fact what she said was "Let's go to the fabric store, the fabric store makes me happy". Oh my goodness, she really IS my daughter! I said, sure we could go to the fabric store since it makes me happy too. To which she responded, "Good, we should go to the fabric store since it makes us both happy.". That's my girl! She really gets me!