Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Gold

Summer is here! I have been enjoying the warmth as well as the golden summer blooms that seem to abound in my yard. I took my camera outside to photograph our roses and ended up discovering golden riches beyond what I had anticipated. Here is a photo-tour of my discoveries.

Dandelions are the epitome of golden. We have an out-of-control dandelion problem, and when I become discouraged about it, I remember how early settlers treasured them and made sure they brought dandelions with them to their new homes. It's interesting to think about. Perhaps I should study up on the good qualities of dandelions (besides their gorgeous color) so that I can get some benefit from the abundance that surrounds us.

I found this tall, spiky beauty in one of our gravelly side lots.

I have sadly neglected my flower pots this year. I bought some flowers for them but accidentally let them all die before transplanting them. I was encouraged, though, to find some cheerful violas, self-seeded from last year, brightening the planters.

I found these tiny, fragrant wild flowers in our other gravelly side lot. (Gravelly side lots are a lot harder to keep tidy-looking than you'd think!)

And now I come to the original feature of this post: our golden roses. We share a huge rose bush with our neighbors (I think it ate the fence) which is covered bright yellow buds and blooms right now. It's so beautiful.
The roses are simple and look very much like golden wild roses, but they make up for their simplicity in profusion and in fragrance. They have a light yet heady, pungent yet sweet smell that I love. I only wish that they would bloom all summer!
As I was turning away from the roses to head back inside, I spotted these charming four petaled flowers blooming in a very shady spot underneath the rose bush. I had never seen this kind of flower before and was happy that I saw them.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thanks to Benjamin, our grill is up and running again! (Have I mentioned that already? I'm very happy about it.) I researched and bookmarked a whole bunch of new grilling recipes and am excited about trying them. Prepare for a lot of recipe reviews! : ) Here is what I'm planning for this week:

M-leftovers and salad
T-garlic-ginger chicken kabobs with noodles and satay sauce and broccoli
W-taco salad
Th-grilled brown sugar pork chops, rice, carrots
F-Pasta with red sauce and spinach

What are you making this week?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

dress refashion #2

The second dress I decided to alter was a more-than-floor length dress (I had to wear it with at least three inch heels) that I bought two February's ago to wear for our Valentine's date. Since I was three-and-a-half months pregnant with Brother, neither my dressy normal clothes nor my dressy maternity clothes fit well. Naturally, when I found this dress second hand for a good price, I happily snatched it up. I enjoyed wearing it for that Valentine's date, but I haven't worn it since. When I began to contemplate shortening the dress discussed in dress refashion #1, I decided to change this one too.

And once again, just in case you're interested, here is a list of the alterations I did:
1. When trying it on, I noticed that the back had an odd little pucker of too much fabric while the front was a little too snug. Since there are no darts in this dress, I decided to try it on backwards. Voila! Both the front-snugness and back-pucker were fixed, and it fit me better than it ever had before.
2. I decided that I didn't want to try to hem the chiffon, so instead of cutting off the bottom of the dress to shorten it, measured and cut a section out of the middle of the dress. I figured that empire waists are "in" right now, so making the dress have an empire waist would work.
3. I lightly gathered the bottom skirt section, and attached it to the bodice section. I sewed the seams wrong sides together.
4. Yes, you read that right. I planned it that way so that the inside would be smooth and un-itchy. I then attached a white ribbon around the empire waistline. This took care of two things at once: it added a touch of white so that I can wear the dress with a white tank top (the V back was just a bit too low for wearing in the front) and it provided a smooth, clean finish over the ugly and potentially itchy raw edges.
5. Finally, I ran elastic through the little pocket between the ribbon and dress so that the dress would be more fitted without demanding the addition of a zipper.
6. The very last step was making a white ribbon bow pin and putting it on the dress at the waist line.

I planned for it to be a little shorter than it is, but I think I like it just fine the way it is. It is light, shorter, and more casual. There's only one problem. It...ah...just seems to scream maternity dress to me which would be fine if I was about six months pregnant. Since I'm not, though, I feel a little sad that I won't be able to use it this summer.

See? Just look at all that room! I guess I'll tuck it away for the next time I'll need extra room and find other cute clothes to wear this year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

moments and milestones

[Brother and Little Man sport their party-favor shades.]

Today I thought I'd start something new. I'm going to try to write a short and sweet post each Friday about the cute or funny things the boys say and do throughout the week as well as any big milestones that they reach. I think it will be a fun way to document those moments that fly by all too quickly!

~Last weekend Benjamin and I enjoyed sleeping in. When I got up, Little Man informed the that Brother had woken up and that he had given him three toys to cheer him up. I was pleased with his kind helpfulness and went in to get Brother up. This is what I found:
The entire contents of the big toy basket and the baby-toy bin (plus a couple of extra big trucks) were in Brother's pack-n-play with him. He was oh, so happy with the arrangement, and Little Man was pleased to have helped!

~Brother took his first step all by himself! He was trying to get to his daddy.

~When he heard Benjamin commenting to me that the boys really look a lot alike only with different coloring, Little Man exclaimed as if he was an expert: "Yes! I have blue hair, and [Brother] has hazel hair!"

~As I was driving down the road with the boys in the car, Little Man asked: "Where's Daddy?"
I answered, "He's playing golf this evening."
Little Man then further inquired, "Is he hitting range balls?"
I said, "Hmmmm, I don't know. Probably not."
"I think he is," Little Man replied with great certainty.

~Brother successfully climbed two stairs at some friends' house.

~Little Man was eating a tasty breakfast and said, "MMMMMmmmmmm!" When Brother heard it, he lit up and copied: "MMMMMmmmm!"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Birthday Gift #2

The second birthday party we went to this week was celebrating one of Little Man's buddies' third birthday. As I pondered what to give him, I was at a loss. After all, most parents complain that their children already have too many toys, and besides, I was hoping to make something.

In my at-a-loss-ness, I turned to my ever-handy collection of bookmarked projects and rediscovered this clever reusable lunch set comprised of a sandwich wrap and cloth snack bags. I knew that making reusable snack bags would be perfect for the birthday boy's mom (she's the queen of preparedness and always, always has snacks packed with enough to share), but I wanted something that the little guy would love too, so I continued to look. And I found this boy-sized hobo sack, perfect for storing boyish treasures.

All that to say that I decided to make a hobo sack treasure bag along with a couple of reusable snack bags and a sandwich wrap (not pictured) as our gift.
In my stash, I found some cowboy print fabric which was perfect for the birthday boy. I used it for the bag lining and for an appliqué on the outside of the bag as well as for the snack bags and sandwich wrap.

I think these cute little snack bags will come in handy. (Gayle, you would have laughed if you had seen me stuffing the bags with random sewing things so that they would stay clean but still look like they were full of snacks for the picture.)

Since I was in such a good crafty mood, I thought I'd make a hobo sack/snack bag for my Little Man too. After all, making two of one thing really doesn't take that much longer than making one, right?
I am delighted to report that Little Man loves his hobo sack. Packing toys and snacks before going places has never been so fun, and he hardly wants to leave the house without his bag! I hope that his buddy will have just as much fun with his.

Birthday Gift #1

This week we had two birthday parties to attend: one on Monday and one on Tuesday. Besides having an opportunity to eat cake, visit with people, and help them celebrate, birthday parties are fun because they give me an excuse to make things! The party on Monday was in celebration of my newest little flute student's eleventh birthday.

When I was younger and making the weekly trek to music lessons, I had a handy, generously sized tote bag that was just perfect for hauling my flute and stack of music books around. Inspired by that memory, I decided to make a music bag as a birthday gift for my student.

I used re-purposed denim for the outside of this basic tote bag and a cheery sunflower print for the lining. Just for fun I machine appliquéd a sunflower on the outside of the bag to coordinate with the lining.

It was a fun project, and aside from having to start over with all new fabric because the first fabric I chose began to disintegrate when the original bag was almost complete, it was a quick one too. The best part, though, was when my flute student saw it and lit up, exclaiming, "This is wonderful!"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Father's Day Gifts

This year for Father's Day, I wanted to make home made gifts for my husband, father, and father-in-law. The only problem was that I wasn't having any ideas. Finally, after a long, complicated train of thoughts late-ish one night as I was trying to sleep (that's my best project problem solving time!) I came up with a good idea that I used for all three gifts: hand print wall hangings.

Each wall hanging is a bit different. This is my husband's. I traced our boys' hands, onto paper, cut them out, traced them onto muslin, and embroidered the lines in different colors. I love how it turned out.

I'm especially pleased with how the initials turned out. All those tiny stitches and curved lines were a bit of a challenge.

For my dad's and father-in-law's gifts, I didn't have time to hand embroider the hand prints, so I cut out fabric and machine appliquéd the hand prints onto the base fabric. The one above is my dad's. I stacked the boys' hand prints and a heart on top of each other which made for a nice, compact layout.

This one is for my father-in-law. My awesome sister-in-law got my niece's hand-tracing in the mail for me even though she was unwell so that I could include all the grandchildren's hand prints for our father-in-law.

I am so pleased with how these turned out. Little Man likes them too, declares that they are "cute!" and would love to be allowed to play with them. After all, his hand print is included, right?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Menu

Good morning! I'm starting off my week by planning out my menu and going grocery shopping. Thankfully Benjamin was able to fix our grill, so we can use it again. Now all I have to do is find some creative new gilling recipes to try. I'm going to try to plan a rather simple menu this week because it's a full one!

M-Hot dogs, fruit
T-Grilled chicken salad
W-Steak, rice, and a vegetable
Th-small group
F-Since the boys and I are going to Helena, we'll probably eat fast food for dinner.

What are you making this week?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hard Shell Tacos

This is more of a technique than a recipe, but I still thought it was good enough to share. Seriously, this way of making hard shell tacos is the best I know of. The shells don't shatter and the meat and beans are warm . Without further ado, here's how I make hard shell tacos:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Decide how many tacos you want to make
and spread a layer of refried beans
into all of the taco shells
with a butter knife.
Line up the bean filled taco shells in a baking dish.

Spoon a layer of cooked, seasoned meat into the bean filled shells.
You can use shredded chicken, ground beef, ground turkey, ground game meat,
whatever you want!
Top the meat with some shredded cheese.
(My favorite is cheddar.)
Put the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 7-10 minutes
until the cheese is melted and the meat and beans
are warmed through.

While the tacos are baking, prepare whatever other toppings you want.
Hot sauce, sliced olives, sour cream, diced tomatoes, and shredded lettuce
are pictured here.
Take the bean, meat, and cheese filled taco shells out of the oven.
Fill them the rest of the way with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Friday, June 18, 2010

dress refashion #1

I finally got the after photos for two refashioning projects I completed last month. Here is the post I wrote about the first one:

What began as an innocent and simple little plan of shortening a couple of dresses has turned into the more significant project of full-blown refashioning. See, it started with my mom's suggestion that I shorten one of my formal dresses. I never have the chance to wear my formal dresses, and the idea was that if I shortened it, it would still be dressy, but not so dressy that I couldn't wear it, say, to an afternoon wedding. I mulled it over, liked the idea, and decided to shorten another formal dress too. I tried them both on, and then the ideas started getting out of hand.

The dress I decided to start with was one of my favorites for dressy flute performances in highschool. I decided that if I shortened the skirt, the original top (or...ah...the large shoulder pads) would make the dress too top-heavy. So, I decided to start by taking out the shoulder pads. Here is a list of what I did (if you're not interested in the details, just scroll on down to the "after" photos):

1. I took out the shoulder pads and discovered (as I anticipated) that without them there, all the extra fabric sagged, making for a very baggy bodice.
2. I next got my mom's help to cut off the sleeves and trim the bodice to where I wanted to reattach the sleeves.
3. The next step was to rework the darts, making a curved dart from the empire waist to the sleeve. This simulated what would happen in a fitted bodice made from three curved pieces. I had to sew, try on, and sew again several times until I got the perfect, smooth fit I envisioned.
4. I then reattached one of the original sleeves and tried the dress on. It looked beautiful: the curved dart was smooth, and the sleeve sat nicely. There was one problem, though: I couldn't move in it. I had taken off too much fabric to make the bodice smooth and tailored.
5. A brain storm time out was called. As I rummaged through my stash of patterns looking for ideas for a solution, I found a pattern with a graceful flutter sleeve.
6. I measured where I wanted the new hem line to fall and trimmed the extra fabric off the bottom of the dress. I had plenty of extra fabric for cutting out the flutter sleeves from the pattern I had found. With a little tiny bit of tweaking they fit perfectly!
7. I hemmed and sewed on the new flutter sleeves and hemmed up the bottom of the dress.
8. After a little bit of ironing, I was good to go! I had a "new" beautiful but not-too-dressy, un-top-heavy little dress.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

ten months

Brother had his ten month birthday this week. I just love watching him as he explores and develops! Here are some things he's doing right now:

crawling quickly
pulling up into a standing position on anything he can get his hands on
figuring out he can pull things off of wherever he has pulled up
opening and exploring cabinets
delighting us all with his contagious and generous laughter
still loving eye contact and liberally dolling out smiles
starting to get the concept of object permanence
yelling when something is taken away from him
still chewing away on almost everything
growing his seventh tooth
eating amazingly huge amounts of food
re-gaining the weight he lost with the flu
trying to keep up with Little Man
starting to get in on the Daddy-Little Man wrestling
drumming with anything on everything he can get his hands on
showing more of an interest in books
sleeping more at night and much less during the day
starting to need a hair cut
looking like a boy and not like a baby

I'm trying to enjoy every minute of my busy baby-boy's transition from babyhood into toddler-hood without longing to grasp at it. It's good to see him grow!

work in progress

This is a sneak peek at one of my recent projects.
Oh, yes, this week has been project-rich,
and I'm longing to share,
but I must wait
my current projects have to do
with birthdays, father's day, and surprise.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Library Day and Summer Goals

Starting spontaneously last week, Wednesday is our library day. It had been a while since we had gone to the library, and I was pleased to observe a huge leap in Little Man's understanding of the whole concept. He was actually excited about picking out his own books, taking the to the counter to borrow, and taking them home to read. I found his enthusiasm contagious and signed him up for the library summer reading program.

The summer reading program leads conveniently into the summer goals part of this post. Since we are signed up for the library program, I thought that making a goal of reading out loud to Little Man for half an hour every day was a good idea. There are several reasons I especially like this idea: we get to spend time together, I get to actively expose him to literature (one of my very favorite subjects!), and he will be in the habit of sitting still and paying attention for a reasonable stretch of time when we start on home-school preschool this fall.

The other goal that I set at the same time was to work in the garden for half an hour every day. Once again I have several reasons: we will get fresh air and sunshine, the garden will get weeded, and my plants will have a better chance at survival.

So far we're doing much better at the reading goal than the garden goal. Part of it is because of all the beautiful rain we have been getting, and part of it, I confess, is just because I'm more of a book-girl than an outdoors-girl. I'm going to work on remedying the disproportionate goal-meeting, though! I really want a successful garden, a decent tan, and strong, out-door-loving boys.

: )

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Little Man loves to play with play-doh. It has provided him many hours of entertainment, for which I'm oh, so thankful. Unfortunately, however, play-doh dries out and becomes unworkable after a while. All of Little Man's play-doh was reaching that stage when I came across a timely recipe for homemade playdoh.

And so one day last week Little Man and I made some of our very own play-doh. He especially enjoyed dumping the measured ingredients for me, choosing what color he wanted his new play-doh lumps to be, and kneading in the food coloring.

Then he enjoyed rolling out his new play-doh, cutting it with "cookie-shapes" and scissors, and making colorful "hot dogs." And he just keeps enjoying it over and over again.

What a great project for us to do together!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Menu

[green beans and chicken]

Good morning! I am happy to be off on another week and am excited about the summery weather we are finally getting. The only problem is that I'm way better about menu-planning for wintry weather. For some reason nothing sounds good in the warmer weather and I just can't seem to think of foods that won't make my house toasty hot as I'm cooking them. Oh, and our grill is broken, so I can't even lean on grilling like I usually do. Do you have any summery-food ideas to share? Please tell me about them in the comment section! I would love some fresh ideas.

Here is what I'll be planning on making this week:
M-Bagel sandwiches and fruit
T-Hamburgers (I'm going to try cooking them in the oven like Benjamin suggested since I have no grill) and salad
Th-Home group (I have the week off of meal rotation)
F-Pancakes, omelets, and fruit

What are you making this week?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

birthday girl

Yesterday I enjoyed photographing some friends' daughter's first birthday party. This is one of my favorite photos of the little cutie. When we were invited I offered to bring my camera (I know how nice it is to have someone else man the camera while you focus on the festivities!). I was glad I did and had a lot of fun capturing those moments in spite of tricky fluorescent lighting.


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

you just have to
hold on
to what you believe

even if you can't see it

if you're holding on
to truth
it will pay off eventually

and you will be stronger
for all the holding on

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

new item in the shop

Remember these wedding calligraphies? Well, you can get them here from my Etsy store now!

a time to plant...

Yesterday was one of our first truly nice days, and in the afternoon I finally planted my garden. I'm about three weeks behind schedule because of late frosts, travel, and sickness, but I'm hoping to get at least some produce from it before our early fall frosts.

It's a cute little garden--half the size that I have tried to cultivate the last couple of years. I think that's good, though, because smaller is easier to maintain.

We planted seven tomato plants.
And surrounded them with water walls.
We planted sugar peas. (One of our favorites!)
The peas were scattered before being poked into the dirt.
I have the feeling that I will be finding pea plants popping up
in unexpected places this year.
We planted four pepper seedlings and three potatoes (not pictured).
We also planted two each of broccoli and cabbage seedlings.
In addition to all this,
we have volunteer spinach and many self-seeded baby garlic plants.

After planting, discovering, and watering,
we came inside and cooled off with creamy and cool
strawberry-peach smoothies.
They were delicious.

This morning Little Man woke up and asked if he could eat his plants yet, and I explained that we need to wait a bit longer before they are ready to eat. I can certainly identify with his eagerness! I can hardly wait to eat juicy, fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, bursting with flavor or to munch on crisp sugar peas while watering the garden or to make our own home-grown vegetable soup. But wait and water and watch we will, whether we think we can or not.