Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Fools Day Dinner

Dear Kate,
With April Fools Day being only a couple of days away, I thought I'd share a tradition we have. Our kids love the dinner we typically have that night. It's nothing special... usually just spaghetti, salad, bread sticks and dessert. The different part is how it's served. I rename all of the menu items and also rename all of the utensils (we include very unusual ones). The children fill out their menus and then I serve them. Here is an example of the menu. The items in parenthesis are not included on their menu!

You are going on an adventure. You will come across some of the things listed during your dining activity.
Please put numbers 1-4 next to the items below.
Slimey Snakes (that would be the spaghetti)
Frog Bones (bread sticks)
Seaweed and moss (salad)
Mud (chocolate pudding)
Quick sand (milk)

Next pick four different items that you would like to take with you. Place numbers 1-4 next to them.
Shovel (ice cream scoop)
Screwdriver (butter knife)
Ax (pancake turner)
Rope (straw)
Arrow (Spatula)
Magic Wand (spoon)
Pitchfork (fork)

They are then served their number 1 item from the top of the list with their number 1 item at the bottom of the list to eat it with. They usually all have something different. Some start with dessert while others start with salad. They get their number two picks after they are done with number one. It is so fun to hear them and to see how creatively they eat with what they have. You'll have to try it as the boys get older. Even N. loved it last year and he was only two, but he did have his older siblings to watch. Wait a couple of years and let me know what you think!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tutorial: Holey Knees Make the Perfect Boy’s Shorts

Dear Amy,

So yes, another pair of D’s pants has bitten the dust. The boy plays so hard! These were especially tragic for me to lose. I LOVED these pants. I bought them off eBay…Mini Boden brand, a little baggy, SO CUTE!

Inevitably, D’s hectic play schedule has claimed this casualty. Sad. Fortunately, though, this particular pair of pants lends itself perfectly to becoming a cutesy pair of summer shorts. Hooray! Big smiles! I neglected to take a “before” picture of said pants (due to my crazy excitement to complete the transformation), but you get the idea from this picture.

3-30 pants

The pants just happened to have a conveniently located seam mid-leg. I cut directly below that seam to remove the legs. I then machine sewed two patches on…one on each leg, large enough to cover the holes and thinning fabric.


I wanted some STRONG patches, so I used home decor-weight fabric and double layered it. I love the look of the unfinished, frayed edges, so I left them unfinished.

3-30 patch

I simply sewed around the edges of the patch and then sewed in an X pattern across the center to keep it securely in place. D loves his new shorts and this mama is delighted not to lose one of her favorite pairs of D’s pants. Saved the pants and re-used scrap fabric. Now that’s what I call success. Bring on the summer sun…we’re ready!

Love, Kate

p.s. Here are some projects I’m working on that I can’t wait to tell you about: toddler sleeping bags for the boys, road trip activities for toddlers, spring/summer wreath reusing old t-shirts, clothes for the Easter bunnies, and a fabulous blanket for Eric made from recycled sweatshirts.

Tutorial: Easter Basket Grass

I wanted to share one of the things I love doing for Easter. It's fast, east and always turns out! It's a fun one to have little hands help with. If you start now, you'll have a great Easter centerpiece just in time. Here's what you do.

Line an Easter basket with plastic. I used a plastic basket as well so that if I do have a little dirt on it that I want to rinse off when Easter is over, I'll have that option. I used a couple of plastic grocery bags to line it with. Fill that with dirt, make sure you don't get to much...the grass grew really well, so I wouldn't fill it to the top.
Next I added wheat...yes that's right, plain old wheat. I just used the wheat that I grind for whole wheat flour. If you don't have whole wheat kernels, you can get them in bulk at a health food store or other stores. I then added a thin layer of dirt over the top, watered it, and put it in front of the window. It took 4 days to see good growth, but these photos are taken on day 5. I hope you'll try it and let me know how it works. I think it is so fun this time of year to have the real grass in the basket. We blew out some eggs and the kids colored them to add to the basket.

Enjoy and Happy Easter!

This post it linked at A soft place to land
We are participating today on Get your craft on!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tutorial: Happy Easter String Eggs

I decided that we needed to make some fun Easter decorations. N. wanted to help. I remembered the string eggs from years ago and decided we'd make some. After a little research I decided that we'd bag the sugar-water approach and use thinned glue. It was a fun project and N. liked the outcome, but he said it was too hard for a 3 year old. I think it would work better with the older kids. Here's what we did.

You will need:
glue (I used Elmer's school glue)
paper plate
crochet yarn
small balloons blown up

Thin glue with a bit of water. I did this on a paper plate. After trying several things, I found that rolling the balloon in the glue mixture prior to wrapping with string worked best. This was the part N. really enjoyed. He was the balloon roller!

Wrap with string. Make sure you don't have any large spaces. Try to end with the string in an unnoticeable location.

Roll balloon in glue mixture again, making sure it is covered, but not to heavily. We did sprinkle some with glitter at this point, but I think I prefer the plain eggs.

Hang to dry. Make sure you hang them where they can drip without ruining something. I hung them outside overnight and by morning, the eggs were hardened and the balloons were shriveled up and easy to remove with tweezers.

I wish we would have done some in yellow, but they were out of yellow crochet thread at the fabric store. I may make some more with the older kids. It was a fun project. We hung some from the rod in our living room as you can see. We also tried some in a basket. I have seen some bigger string eggs that then have an opening cut in the front and are filled with Easter grass and some small bunnies or something in them. So many possibilities! Let me know how you would display them.
Have a great day!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recipe: My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie...the Healthier Version

Today I decided to be the perfect mom and have chocolate chip cookies waiting for an after school snack. You know I am always trying to make things a little healthier, so I tried it with my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have always used whole wheat flour and even sucanat, but this time I made additional changes. They turned out very yummy. I even took some to my neighbor and she gave them a thumbs up. You really can't tell that they are better for I must say they are not great for you, so you'd better not eat the entire batch!!
Here's the recipe...
1/2 cup butter softened (I want to try decreasing this, but haven't perfected that yet)
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
3 Tbsp. applesauce (non-sweetened)
2 cups sucanat (sometimes I use a little less)
Then add:
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking powder (non-aluminum type)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups regular oatmeal blended in blender until powdered (usually blend 1 cup at a time for best results)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 package chocolate chips
Raisins and nuts if desired

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until done (do not over bake)

Let me know what you think. I think you'll like them! I have some fun Easter things I want to share with you...I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pattern Review: Super Cute Bunny for the Kiddies

Dear Amy,

Good morning! So, this is our first Easter with the boys. I’m so excited. Remember how much fun we used to have as kids searching for our baskets? We couldn’t look for eggs until we’d found our basket. Mom and Dad always included such fun things in our baskets.

In sticking with our determination not to BUY, BUY, BUY, I’ve been pondering different things to include in the boys’ Easter baskets. The Internet is full of free patterns for those who know how to find them. One of my favorite sites for free sewing and knitting patterns and tips is Purl Bee, the blog for the store Purl Soho in New York. I. LOVE. THEM.

I’m making the Purl Rabbit for each of the boys for Easter this year. The lovely folks at Purl Soho also included free patterns for clothes for said rabbits. There’s also a dress pattern for Ms. Rabbit. So sweet!


I used a lightweight quilting cotton I had on hand for the body. It’s a pale green with white dots. Love it! I used a [plain brown embroidery thread, three strand, for the face.

rabbit face

If you look closely, you can still see the pale markings of the pencil I used to outline the face before I stitched it. I used a curved needle, which I would HIGHLY recommend when sewing faces on stuffed animals and dolls. It makes it so much easier.

rabbit knees

I made two changes to the pattern. First, I sewed the ears on prior to sewing the body front and back together, instead of hand sewing them on after stuffing the body. Two, I added a line of stitching for knees in each leg. This makes the rabbit sit better. On my second rabbit, I think I’ll add elbows, too.

LOVED making this adorable woodland creature. It took about an hour and a half from start to finish…not bad at all. The boys are at ages where they love to dress and undress things, so the clothes are next on my list.

Have a great day! We’re headed out to enjoy the sunshine!

Love, Kate

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fresh Lime Juice

Dear Kate,
I've decided to share with you one of the ways I live on a little less. As you know I really enjoy cooking and have found that I like to use my freezer when it comes to saving money. I found limes last week for 12 cents each...what a bargain. I bought 8...should have bought more. Tonight I am juicing them with my little antique hand juicer and then freezing the juice in ice cube trays. After it's frozen I put it in a freezer bag marked and dated. Then whenever I need fresh lime juice for a recipe, I have what I need. It's so convenient and much better than the bottles of juice. I have loved it, especially in fresh salsa in the summer. Each cube is about 2 Tablespoons. I also do this with lemons and with the leftover pineapple juice from canned pineapple. I love the pineapple juice in my green smoothies. You'll have to try it and let me know what you think.

Have a great day in the cold state of Wisconsin. We are experiencing weather in the high 50''s been great!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tutorial: Save those Kid's Pants with Patches!

Dear Amy,
Good morning! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. We enjoyed the sunny (but chilly) days bundled up and playing outside. We had our first fire in the chiminea over the weekend. We played and went on walks and dreamed of summer.

Contrary to what most of our townsfolk were wearing last week when it reached 60 degrees, it’s still not warm enough for shorts (and/or tube tops, people. Take note!). I mean, come on. It’s March…in Wisconsin…they don’t call it the frozen tundra for nothing.

So, it’s still long pants for us. DeAngelo own three pairs of jeans—all hand-me-downs. (Thanks, friends and family!) Over the past month, two of the three pairs have sprouted vents…directly over the heavy play area—his knees. I hate to buy him new pairs now because he’s smack dab in the middle of a growth spurt. That sent me looking for other options. Enter THE PATCH.
 patches2 3-22

I am not a fan of store-bought patches. I hate the look of them and they never seem to stay on anyway. So, I had to get creative.

patches3 3-22

I searched through my scrap fabric and found some decorator-weight fabric by the lovely Anna Marie Horner left over from some previous project. There are three patches in all.

patches 3-22

I used the blanket stitch to attach two of them and a simple straight stitch to attach the other one. I did a simple straight in an X across the center of all three.

patches pants 3-22 
DeAngelo loves them. I don’t know if they’ll stay put. I don’t know how long they’ll last. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that they last a few months until I can convert these jeans into shorts. I’ll keep you posted.

Love, Kate

Friday, March 19, 2010

Recipe: Green Smoothie Deliciousness

Dear Amy,
Good morning! We both know how hard it can be to get enough veggies into our kids’ diets. i know that you’ve been interested in green smoothies for awhile now, so I thought I’d share one of our favorite green smoothie recipes.
smoothie cup
We have this practically every day for lunch. The boys love it and anticipate it. And it’s super fast and super easy. Of course, the recipe is not exact since I made it up and I make variations of it depending on what I have on hand.
smoothie upside down
A couple of large spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt
A couple of large spoonfuls of unsweetened applesauce
one banana
a few cubes of cooked sweet potato (skin-free)
a handful of raw spinach
1/2 cup or so of apple juice
Blend until smooth.
smoothie top
These amounts are for an amount that feeds both of my boys—maybe a couple of cups or so. I’ve added nuts, wheat germ, and raw oatmeal in the past—all have worked well. To blend it, I use my favorite kitchen toy—the Magic Bullet. I LOVE this thing! I got it on super sale at Kohl’s and I use it at least once a day…typically several times a day.
smoothie glass
I usually pair a green smoothie with crackers, humus, sliced veggies, raisins and some cheese. The boys love it and I love knowing that they are eating well.
Eric Smoothie
Give it a try! Have a great day!
Love, Kate

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Recipe: A Healthy Twist for Banana Bread

Dear Kate,
As you know, I love making recipes a little more healthy. For some reason I love learning about healthy eating and healthy living. I have a recipe that I've tweaked for Banana Flax seed Bread that I want you to try sometime.

Banana Flax seed Bread
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 cup milk with 2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice added (let sit 5 min.)
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. applesauce
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup ground flax seed
1 tsp. baking powder (non-aluminum)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed bananas

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix sucanat, milk, eggs and applesauce until smooth. In a separate bowl combine wheat flour, flax seed, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix and add to wet ingredients. Add mashed bananas and lightly mix. Pour into greased (or sprayed) loaf pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cook slightly in pan before removing. Makes one loaf.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. My kids even liked it and as you know that is not always the case. I hope it's a great day in Wisconsin. The weather is beautiful here, but is supposed to change later in the day...I'm getting Spring Fever!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My New Many-Petaled Love

Dear Amy,

I have found a new love. And as with most new loves, I am full of eager anticipation…the possibilities are endless. I want to spend all of my free time with my new love. I can’t wait for you two to meet!

Last year, I bought a book that sounded fascinating, Kanzashi in Bloom by Diane Gilliland. In sticking with my goal to use up scrap fabric, find uses for old clothes that are not worth donating and continue to create to my heart’s content, I have fallen for Kanzashi.

My limited understanding is that true Kanzashi is the art of folding gorgeous Japanese silk into petals, which are then used to create stunning and elaborate hair decorations to be worn with traditional Japanese kimonos. It’s a time-consuming art form that takes years of training and many specialized tools.

Enter Diane’s book. The pictures are fabulous. The projects are simple. The directions are super easy to follow. I’ve been looking for some sort of inspiration for a new wreath to adorn our front door…something a little springy, a little summery, mostly happy. For me, Kanzashi seems the perfect fit. Not only will dozens of tiny flowers adorn my new wreath, but this new flowery delight may just overflow into all areas of my life. Watch for elaborate fabric flowers to adorn everything and anything I own! I love them!

I can use my scrap fabric or fabric I’m not particularly fond of. I can cut up old clothing. Of course, I’ll send you photos when my wreath takes shape. Until then, let these wet your whistle:

flower two pieces

flower triangle

flower folding petal hand

flower sewing petals

flower back

flower done

I’m not digging the button center, so I think that will have to go, but I love the concept of the flowers. And it took me all of 15 minutes or so. The squares I started with were 3”. SO EASY! I highly recommend Diane’s book, but I also found instructions online HERE. I can’t wait to finish my wreath!

Love, Kate

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tutorial: Seed starting Part 2

I love the bag. I hope you get the iron thing resolved as well, most frustrating! Well, it's time to transplant my seedlings. We transplant to provide more room for the root system and to move them into separate containers so they will be easier to plant in the garden. We usually don't transplant all of the plants, but pick the strongest ones.

As you can see in the photo, they've grown quite a bit. The larger ones are the zucchini, cucumber, cantaloupe and pumpkin. The smaller ones that you see are the cauliflower and tomatoes. I'm still waiting on the peppers. The germination is longer on those and I hope they come up!!
So here's how to do it...

I get some of those empty plastic pony packs or you can use the jiffy pots that you can plant right in the ground. We reuse our pony packs...I'm not sure the experts would recommend it, but it's worked fine for us. Also, keep a pencil'll need it. If planting indoors, I use newspaper to cover my work can see that in the background :)

After filling the pots you are using with potting soil, make a hole with the pencil in the center of the pot.

Next, carefully use the pencil to help loosen the roots of the seedling and while lifting carefully just under the leaves, pick the plant out of the dirt (you can carefully pick it up by the leaves). MAKE SURE YOU HANDLE IT CAREFULLY...DON'T PINCH OFF THE STEM OF THE PLANT. I never pinch when lifting...that is where the pencil comes in handy.

With the help of the pencil, place the roots in the hole and lower the plant. We do bury ours deep so that they don't get as "leggy" as they grow, and they'll have a better root system.

As you will notice, my tomatoes are buried deep...not much showing above the dirt.
Now we leave them by the window under the fluorescent light. I do think the light is working better this year than just the light from the window. Our plants have grown toward the window in past years, but we haven't noticed that this year.

I am also going to start leeks, acorn squash and basil this excited to try those things. I've never planted leeks before so that will be fun! I'll keep you posted on how the hoop house is coming. I'm hoping to make some great progress this week!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The One-Hour (or less) Tote

Dear Amy,
The iron situation is finally resolved…I wish. I made a special trip to the store this morning and came home with a new iron (and several other things for the boys…darn those 50% off toys! Don’t worry…I’m saving them for birthdays and other special occasions…our budget is still intact.). Only the new iron is so narrow that it won’t stand upright because the heat-proof pad on my ironing board is kind of lumpy. Hmm. As we all know, I’m somewhat prone to catastrophic iron falls as it is. Having an iron around that is subject to fall all by itself in addition to the aided falls it may take? Well, that won’t do. So, the aforementioned new iron is going back. Sigh.
Anyway, a quick trip next door to borrow my neighbor’s iron resulted in great accomplishments during nap time today. I thought I’d share my fave. I got the idea for this tote bag from the book “Simple Sewing” by Lotta Jansdotter. Love her and love the book. I’m not going to give a step-by-step tutorial here because you need to buy the book, but the pattern is super basic, super easy and a breeze to alter.
I’ve been longing for a tote to carry my cross stitch around the house and to keep it all together. I know what you’re thinking…”Cross stitch? That’s so ‘80s.” Well, it is. Unless, of course, you have the book “Stitch Graffiti” by Heather Holland-Daly and you’re making an awesome starry night wall hanging for the boys’ room with glow-in-the-dark embroidery thread.I know, you’re in awe and you wish you lived closer. I know. :)
Anyway, the hoop for my project is quite large and I didn’t have a project bag big enough. Enter the one-hour tote bag. I simply measured the diameter of my hoop and added an extra couple of inches for seam allowances and some give. I also made the handles extra long so that it will go over my shoulder.
tote with hoop
Here’s the good part: The base fabric (the circles) is an old sheet I had lying around. I had already cut it up and used part of it to make a laundry bag. Here’s some of it going toward my new tote. I still have about 1/2 the sheet left. That rocks!
tote sheet
The brown fabric is something I had around as well. When our local quilting shop recently closed, I stocked up on fabric of all shapes and sizes at rock-bottom prices. Hate that we lost our quilting shop…love that the sheer volume of fabric I own makes me swoon.
The tote requires only four pieces of fabric—two handles, a base piece and the reinforced bottom piece. It takes all of 15 minutes or so to iron your fabric and cut your out your pieces.
tote pieces
After about 30 minutes of assembly and sewing, it’s done! My finished tote is about 18.5 inches wide and 17.5 inches tall, not including the handles. It’s big enough to fit my hoop, pattern book, thread and needles. YEAH!
Love the tote. Love that it fits my needs. Love that I used (and recycled) fabric I had on hand. Love that I was able to whip it up in less than an hour during naptime . Great project!
What do you think?
Love, Kate