Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Little Monsters

One of Savannah's nicknames before and after she was born was Tummy Monster. It was a nickname well-deserved. Now I have a new tummy monster, and again the nickname is well-deserved. I feel like I'm carrying a gremlin at the moment, not sugar and spice or snips and tails.

Savannah loves monsters, really LOVES them. When I was her age I was petrified of monsters under my bed and was certain that they would bite my achilles until it sprang up to my kneecap like a roller shade, if I got out of bed. Savannah would probably be thrilled to discover a monster under her bed. So while she was sleeping I created her own little monster, named Violet. Violet is hand-sewn from felt scraps, which is unusual because unless I really, really have to, I don't sew with a needle and thread. Violet has a little pocket on her tummy so she can double as a tooth pillow should the tooth fairy visit us anytime in the next year or so.

Violet the monster, who enjoys sleeping under Savannah's bed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Crayon crafts and baby blankies

Today we went through the house and tossed out or organized what we could to prepare for our move. Savannah's craft drawers got a big cleaning today but I wasn't sure what to do with her enormous shoebox box of crayons. Savannah was a compulsive peeler of crayon labels from ages two through, well, now, so most of her crayons had been peeled. We sorted them into color piles and baked them in the oven to make new crayons. This will be perfect for an upcoming unit we are doing on nature and textures where she'll be collecting things she likes from outside and making rubbings. Savannah was very interested in watching the crayons melt in the oven into "crayon muffins." Got some broken crayon pieces of your own? Here's the recipe:
  • sort broken and peeled crayons into piles of your liking (they can be totally mixed if you want or in theme colors such as primary, patriotic, etc)
  • preheat oven to 350
  • fill a muffin tin with your crayons
  • turn off the oven and place the crayons inside, keep the light on so you can watch - they go pretty quickly
  • remove the melted crayons and let cool overnight or place them in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool
Sorting the crayons. I like to do it this way because I think it gives more depth to children's drawings. Most people just mix them haphazardly.

Sorting the broken bits into a muffin tin.

Savannah can't take her eyes off the "crayon muffins."

Some of the finished products. We ended up making 2 dozen!

I also finished making some gifts for my new nephew. He's getting a very boy themed blanky and burp cloths with fire trucks and cars. I was hoping to find fire engine fleece but no luck, so no matchy, matchy. Every baby needs something colorful, soft, machine washable, and thick enough to keep them warm in cold cars or to avoid painful head bonkings on hard surface floors. Here's my tutorial for this baby blanket.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

We are pumpkin fanatics in our house so I have a collection of pumpkin recipes that we rotate as soon as the first leaf turns yellow so we never get sick of our pumpkin goodies.

This is our favorite recipe for pumpkin bread and I often make extra loaves for neighbors in the autumn. It will fill your house with that perfect pumpkin baked good smell. (I have to confess to actually stepping outside just to step back in with a fresh nose so I can inhale the wonders of my autumn kitchen.)


Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Position oven racks in the lower third of oven, then preheat to 350.

Whisk together these dry ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

In a glass measuring cup combine and set aside:

  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl (all your ingredients will eventually end up here) or kitchen stand mixer beat until creamy:

  • 6 TB of softened unsalted butter (NOTE: don't use margarine and reduce salt above if you don't have unsalted butter for baking)

Then add in gradually:

  • 1 c white sugar plus 1/3 c brown sugar

Add in one at a time:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c pumpkin (NOTE: I usually add an additional 2-4 Tb of pumpkin)

Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the liquid mixture beating until just blended (I sometimes do this part by hand or on low speed on my stand mixer).

Spread into pan and bake for about 1 hour (sometimes it needs a few more minutes for the center to firm, but don't overbake.)

Optional variations:

  • 1/2 c pecans or 1/2 walnuts (fold in at the end)
  • 1/3 c dates diced or raisins (fold in at end)
  • 1/3 c shredded coconut, carrots, or zucchini (fold in at end)

This moist bread is great plain, with butter melted on top, with cream cheese, or for breakfast with an egg. If you're hankering for something extra sweet, you can mix in a small bowl some room temperature cream cheese with powdered sugar to make a frosting as well. I also sometimes wrap up a slice and HIDE it in the fridge (as only moms can do) because if I don't, I'll never get a second slice of this bread. Kevin and Savannah make it disappear like a rabbit in a hat.

With the additional pumpkin in the can, we usually make a pumpkin smoothie with pumpkin, ice, milk or milk substitute, 1/4 tsp of vanilla and 1/4-1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spices. It is a delicious treat and a great way to use your leftovers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cozy car quilt

Today Savannah read to me A Picture for Harold's Room while I finished her cozy car quilt. She picked out the fabrics for the front and the fleece for the back as well. My quilting turned out not as well as it could have since my machine won't lower the feed dogs - they kept popping back up so I had to fight the fabric the whole time, but in the end it turned out fine and it fits her perfectly for the car. If our offer is accepted on the contemporary house, I'll have to start making modern and Japanese-style quilts - kind of exciting!

Savannah's new car quilt - we use them all fall and winter so she can stay warm while the car takes its time to warm up... Wish I had one too!

Stippling turned out remarkably well, considering I had to fight the feed dogs the whole time I was quilting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Potato Leek Soup Recipe

We've had a lot of rain in Colorado so it's perfect soup weather. Here's my favorite Potato Leek Soup recipe (and I promise to post my Middle Eastern Split Lentil Soup recipe for my Mom soon!):

In a heavy bottom soup pan, add 3Tb of olive oil plus 1Tb of unsalted butter. Heat to medium low and add slices from 3-4 (very well washed) leeks. Saute for 6 minutes then add 2 large diced and washed Yukon Gold potatoes with skin on for another 3-4 minutes.

Add 5 cups of water and 3-4 teaspoons of chicken bouillon (be sure your bouillon is free of MSG (monosodium glutamate) - I prefer to use Organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base)

Cover with lid and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup half and half, 1/4 cup Parmesan and freshly ground pepper (and maybe extra salt)to taste.

I also usually add a pinch of herbs de Provence and sometimes flat leaf parsley.

I like to serve the soup with open-faced tomato and avocado sandwiches with a shake of Herbamare and pinch of powdered garlic on top and a side green salad.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Supereasy and soft fleece baby blanket tutorial

One of the things I've made for Savannah that has gotten the most use over the years is a double-sided fleece blanket (okay she has at least four of them). When she was little, it protected her from hard surfaces for tummy play and protected my carpets from baby drool. Later they were used in the car to keep her warm before the car warmed up. Then they were used to soften the wagon ride, to snuggle in the jogger on cold days, for tea parties, to tuck her dolls in, and larger sizes are used outside (or inside) for picnics and for forts. So to us, they are indispensable (not to mention machine-washable, soft, and durable).

1. Cut two same-size pieces of fleece (we usually coordinate one solid with one color) in the size you prefer, or about 30" x 36".

2. Place them right sides together (or wrong sides out).

3. Using your favorite seam length from 3/8" to 5/8", sew around the perimeter of the blanket leaving a 5-6" opening in the middle of one end. If any of your seams are uneven or larger than 1/2", simply trim away the excess fabric. If perfection is your thing, you can pin and use a walking foot rather than a regular foot.

4. Using the opening, pull the right sides out being sure to pinch the corners so they turn sharply. You can also shape these after the blanket is turned right side out.

5. Once you're satisfied, topstitch around the perimeter (I usually topstitch in contrasting colors and about 1.5"-2" inside the seam).

Here I am topstitching with my walking foot and I have a line drawn on my machine so I can sew a relatively even seam. I used a water-soluble fabric marker for the line - it washes off the machine very easily and if any rubs on the fabric, it comes right off in water.

6. Next sew up the opening by hand using matching or invisible thread. Voila, a super-soft fleece baby blanket.

This one is for my friend Melissa whose baby's sex is a surprise. I thought the bright colors and navy backing were neutral enough for any kiddo plus, babies love the contrasting stripes, even before their eyes can see colors. I might make one just like this for myself as well.

This one is for a high school friend in NY who is having a baby boy with a sailboat themed room. Something about these blue stripes said French Navy to me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

More socks and lessons learned

I made Savannah a second pair of the North Country socks and they turned out just as well. Savannah picked out the yarn herself, called beachball blue. As much as I love the sock pattern, I'm not keen on the yarn we picked out. The cotton stretches out after use, so I'm trying out a new yarn for a pair for myself called Heart & Sole with Aloe, Self-striping Knit Socks. So two-thumbs up on the pattern, and no recommendations on the yarn.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My first pair of socks!

When I flip through a new knitting book, sweaters inspire me, camisoles inspire me, baby blankets inspire me, not socks. So, I always thought knitters were crazy when they said knitting socks was addictive and fun. I would think to myself, "Uh, huh, socks, are the last thing I would ever want to knit." Well, procrastination being such a great motivator, I've just made my first pair of socks! (I'm procrastinating from finishing my shrug that I've been picking up and putting down all summer long.)

First I'm proud that I was able to knit them at all, considering that when I began, I had no idea how to turn a heel or what a gusset was. Secondly, I'm proud that they actually fit Savannah's feet! It was fun to have her try them on before I completed the toe to see if they would fit her or not. Next time I think I'll close the toes just a little earlier though! Mostly, I'm proud of myself for finishing a pair of something! If there's anyone out there who could make just one sock and stop there, it's me, although in our house any poor sock missing its mate is instantly turned into a sock puppet.

Here's the free pattern I used that was so easy to follow. I had to remind myself how to SKP and do the Kitchener stitch but I found a video from the knit witch on you tube that showed me how to do these things. I made them from Sugar 'n Cream 100% cotton, a yarn I don't typically knit with. It's machine washable, which is great, but not so easy to work with and less forgiving than blends.

Here they are on my little cutie this morning!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Girls End-of-Summer Skirt

Savannah models her new skirt in front of the fireplace.

I made Savannah a new skirt today, inspired by watching Sewing with Nancy (one of the PBS shows I love to record and skip through for ideas). It's made by cutting out strips that measure 2" on the waist end and 3" (or more) on the hem, then sewing them together. She was thrilled with it and so was I until she went to help her dad do oil changes on the cars and returned with a huge oil spot on the butt...so much for that skirt.

More modeling, with typical four-year-old attitude.