Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Good Time Was Had By All: Halloween 2009

We had a full and wonderful Halloween with all of the usual traditions: carving the pumpkin, suiting-up into costume (Batgirl), trick-or-treating, candy-consumption resulting in a sugar high (Batgirl flying down the hallway way past her bedtime), and our yearly viewing of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. 

Of course, dispersed among all of that was Amelia's favorite part: handing out candy to all of her "customers." Just a few more rings of the doorbell and it will be time for lights out! Happy Halloween to all. 

PS: I hope you like my fishbowl jack-o-lantern. I am embarrassingly drunk on pumpkin praise!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Challenge Extended

The last real jack-o-lantern carving I did was two years ago (last year's Halloween was spent waiting to see Ina Garten--totally worth it). Amelia was two years old and lost interest very quickly so I was left to my own creative devices.  The praise I received from trick-or-treaters old and young was...intoxicating. I was proud enough of my product sitting at the kitchen table; but then getting asked all night "who carved this?" and answering "Me!" took it to a whole new level. I know, I am shameless. Needless to say, the challenge is on...what will I carve tomorrow?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Well, my original plan was to show you a watercolor painting of a fighting conch (our high school mascot) based on the tutorial from Geninne's Art Blog. That plan was thwarted when I realized that tiny, spunky hands had ever so nicely "finished my drawing for me." So, here is what I will share instead: an abstract conch shell by Danielle AND Amelia: 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Funny Little Thing About Pictures

I didn't really develop an interest in taking pictures (I hesitate to even use the word photography here as that would be seriously overstating) until Amelia was born. I wanted to capture not every moment, but ones that truly encapsulated her and would hopefully later be her favorite images of herself. I was even known to destroy flower arrangements in order to create fun and creative images (I guess I am still doing that!). Four and a half years later, I am still thinking in "ooh, that would make a cool picture" terms and can be found all around the house "getting shots." The two pictures above are my most recent favorites. First, Amelia in her full spunky glory heading out to see So You Think You Can Dance live. Second, candy corn pumpkins all in a row. Funnily enough, the second picture caused Jason to pause, wondering where in the world these pumpkins were placed. On Amelia's headboard of course! Where else? :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Could this vintage yellow sewing kit be any more adorable? It belonged to my late mother-in-law (a crafter herself!) and was recently bestowed upon me by my father-in-law. The case alone is amazing, but on the inside, oh my! An overflow of various threads, needles, lace, buttons, and ric rac. A most perfect sentimental keepsake, indeed. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Birdie Notecards for My Mom

Confession: I had a bit of stamp-carver's block this weekend. Instead of continuing to stare at the un-carved linoleum I decided to pull out my previous carving (how I love chubby birds!) and practice stamping. I purchased some blank notecards (thick, folded paper would do just fine in a pinch) and began making a set of cards for my mom. I experimented with a few different colors and color-mixes. I really like that no card is alike, yet they clearly go together as a set. Once the paint was dry, I added a bit of accenting with a fine-tip Sharpie. For fun, I also added her name in various places.

Oh, and the music notes? Covering up spots where the paint bled! 

PS: Mama, these cards are making their way to you as I type :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Barefoot Sunday: Bruschetta with Peppers and Gorgonzola & Pasta with Pecorino and Pepper

The theme of today's selections was trying different cheeses, attempting to expand our cheese palates beyond parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar. The bruschetta was the first recipe to jump out from the pages of the cookbook this morning. It was also the most fun to shop for, with a beautiful basket full of colorful, fresh ingredients and a crusty, yummy baguette. The peppers were wonderful and tender. We couldn't quite get past the briny smell of the capers, so they were omitted. Alas, the gorgonzola was a bit too strong for our taste as well, but at least now we know. I definitely plan on preparing this with mozzarella in the near future. It seems like a wonderful appetizer because few ingredients go a very long way and no garlic means no breath issues :) The pasta with pecorino was, just as Ina wrote, very simple and perfect for a weeknight. It is very filling-so a little goes a long way there too. In all, it was a very full and enlightening dinner.

PS: Both recipes are from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics Cookbook, by Ina Garten.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Goodness

We love the pumpkin patch. A field of happy children roaming and climbing, trying to find the most perfect pumpkins to bring home while the parents chase them around trying to find the most perfect photo opportunity. We come to the same patch each year, so our little gift from the pumpkin patch is the image of how much Amelia has grown since the last time we came, and how much she has grown since the first time we came. My oh my, how she has grown!

We came home with these four teeny pumpkins for no particular reason whatsoever, plus one beautiful big blank-canvas pumpkin to be carved next week. And the scarf? So very, very cute. Approximately 9,360 stitches of homemade-by-mama goodness. Happy, lovely Saturday to all.

Friday, October 23, 2009

From Chaos to Calm

It has been quite a week, so let's begin the weekend with images of chaos to calm (at least, one of my versions of calm:). We had a bit of an embroidery floss nest after completing the Pink House project. I decided to make some cards to hold the remaining string by cutting thick paper in strips of about 1.5" by 3". I snipped a little notch about one centimeter from the short side and perpendicular to the long side to hold the end of the string in place. Then, wrap, secure in the notch, repeat! I left the unopened string as-is, but made some extra cards for when they get used. Ah, much better.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Handmade Stamps...Soon

Does it count as being spoiled if you are truly grateful? Hopefully not...or at least not spoiled "rotten." On Saturday, Jason took me to the fancy art store where I picked out all of the supplies that I need to carve handmade stamps. I was so excited to find exactly what I needed, though the excitement started to wane just a tad as I proceeded to the checkout counter. But then, much to my surprise and sheer delight, the sales clerk let me know that teachers always get a 15% discount! How wonderful! Of course, at that moment I was plotting out my next purchase...hmm....

I have carved stamps two times before, thanks to my lovely teacher-friend Carol, who always lets me crash her art classes when the mood strikes. Words cannot express the feeling of satisfaction that comes from slowly carving away at the butter-like linoleum block. All stress melts away as the shreds pile up and your work of art takes shape.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sneaking In One More Summer Read...

This was amidst the wonderful surprise pile from Jayne and I just couldn't resist. Though set in the summertime (in Maine!), it seems so far to be an enjoyable and well-developed work of fiction rather than a "beach read." Each of the main characters is, so far, very likable. Once I finish I will have a better idea of the perfect friend to pass it to next...

In craft news, I am very excited about some new supplies (I'll show you tomorrow!) that I got this weekend to begin once my darling's scarf is cast off the knitting needles. So soon!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just a Little Bit Longer

I love having flowers around the house; I especially love the sale bin of flowers at the grocery store because there is so much you can do with them for very little cost. Sometimes I will make a giant bouquet by grouping pre-made bunches together or other times I will deconstruct the pre-made bouquets into smaller bunches of like-colored-flowers. The above picture happened when these three beauties outlasted the rest of the wildflower bunch. How could I toss them? They are still perfectly lovely! Their stems were too weak to support the weight of the heads, so I just clipped them off and put them in ramekins. Don't they look like cupcakes?!

PS: The placement of these flowers was for photographic purposes only...I don't generally make it a habit of placing glass bowls of flowers all over the floor :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Self-imposed Deadline

I do not work best under pressure; in fact, the opposite is true. However, a self-imposed deadline is very helpful to me when my enthusiasm for a project starts to peter out toward the end (my brother is likely laughing/fuming right now thinking of all the unfinished board games throughout our childhood!). So, my official deadline to finish Amelia's scarf is this Saturday. We are planning to go to the Pumpkin Patch. The idea of photographing an adorable Amelia wrapped in her scarf amidst a field of pumpkins is keeping me knitting row after row. Almost there!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Barefoot Sunday: Saffron Risotto With Butternut Squash

I wanted to start with a bang, and this recipe from Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook seemed just right. Everybody tells you to be scared of risotto (all that stirring!) but Ina made it less intimidating. I had never before cooked with shallots, saffron threads, or butternut squash for that matter! Honestly, as I was doing the prep work I kept thinking..."this is an awful lot of squash, Ina," but she knows what she's doing. I forged ahead and I'm so glad I did. It was rich without being heavy and perfectly seasoned, as she tells you exactly how much salt and pepper to put in at different intervals throughout the preparation. To balance out the cost factor of the ingredient list (ahem), we will be having grilled cheese and a pizza later this week but it will be worth it ;)

A Little History

"Ina" was not Amelia's first word...but it was in the top 10. I have loved Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) since first viewing her Chefography on the Food Network some years ago. Her story of changing her life and buying a specialty food store is inspirational. Her recipes are wonderful, her books read like novels and look like works of art, and her TV show is warm, inviting, and peaceful after a long day of work. Last October, we had the amazing opportunity to drive and drive and drive to a book signing Ina was having in South Florida. Amelia is as big a fan as I am, so after my brother and I (thanks again Robert!) held our place in line all morning, my dad and Jason brought Amelia just in time to meet Ina!! She is even more beautiful in person than on TV.

So, inspired by Ina and, of course, the story of Julie & Julia, I have decided to start a Sunday cook-fest in honor of Ina. I will call it Barefoot Sunday's and will use it to dare to try recipes that have heretofore intimidated the stew out of me! I am so excited!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Late Summer Pinks

I have never noticed before how many beautiful shades of pink there are here in the late summer/early fall. On this lovely Saturday, I leave you with some very pink neighborhood images from last night and this morning. In store for tomorrow? A special Sunday cooking series that I am very excited about. Be well!

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Finished House

This Little Pink House project was so much fun to work on! Unlike traditional cross stitch, felt applique allows you to cover large areas quickly, which has a very satisfying instant-gratification-effect. Would I call this project simple? Yes, definitely. Would I call it easy? Hmm...the quality of felt did make a difference (the lesser-quality felt tore and puckered) and I had to let go of the notion of perfectly spaced stitches (but for me, maybe that's a good thing).

If you check the tutorial image, you can see that mine is a little bit different. I added a few more flowers and stems for proportion since I had an 8" hoop instead of a 7". Also, I made some changes to the color palette because I was unable to find all of the felt colors that Checkout Girl had. By the way, thank you to my friends Lisa and Carol for gifting me some yellow, pink, and purple felt!

In all, this was a very quick and fun craft to work on. I highly recommend it!

PS: If you have trouble finding wooden embroidery hoops, there are many resources online. I got mine here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Review And A Recipe

The Way Life Should Be was absolutely lovely! An easy read, with just enough conflict to keep it interesting but not so much to seem unlikely or heavy for a full-time-working-mom to read in the evening. An unexpected treat? There were recipes woven throughout the story as well as listed on the end pages. I decided to make the fennel and parmesan salad because I thought it was the most interesting recipe given and also very simple for a weeknight. There were no proportions listed, only ingredients: fennel, parmesan, and a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. After feeding it to my family, I must say that you need to like fennel...I mean really like enjoy this dish (lucky for me--I do!). For my vinaigrette, I chose to do two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice and added salt and pepper to taste. For two fennel bulbs I made about 1/4 cup of dressing, which seemed like a lot but the fennel and parmesan really absorbed it. Yum!

I brought the book to Jayne (my personal book fairy) today, who coincidentally also left me a big stash of new reads on my desk chair. Bliss! Whichever will I read first? Thank you, friend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To My Boy

Today is our "anniversary" or what used to be our anniversary until we got married in May of 2000. Fifteen years later, I just wanted to say thank you to my boy. Thank you for being you and for loving me for me. Thank you for supporting all of my creative efforts always. And Amelia and I both thank you for letting us turn the dining room table into a craft station. I love you! Happy day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

That Was Fast!

It's amazing how something (or things) that you didn't even know you needed until Thursday have become a most prized possession by Tuesday. I have quite the mixture of emotions! Relief that my headaches and carsickness are gone, smitten-ness with my chosen frames, and a tad amount of vulnerability. Why? Because in one swoop (or likely, crunch or chew) my clear vision can be compromised. I have a little more empathy now for Piggy in Lord of the Flies, or even Velma in Scooby Doo, when their glasses go. Silly I know! For now I will settle into the feeling of gratitude for optometrists and enjoy the view.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Il bel far niente

Today, I am home sick. Though I am quite tempted to use this found time to cook or craft, my body is telling me otherwise. Instead, Isa and I will enjoy "Il bel far niente," Italian for "the beauty of doing nothing."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Morning

Good Morning! Ah, Sunday's. I have become better over the years at not procrastinating too many odds and ends, which used to make my treasured Sunday a tornado of errands and laundry. I have, however, left it as grocery day since I do like to make a nice, big dinner on Sunday evening but don't often have the inspiration for the meal until that morning (sometimes I just hand Jason the cookbooks and say "choose.") Today you will see evidence of the morning so far: bread rising, iced orange juice (post coffee ;)), and the beginnings of a grocery list. Ina Garten's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa At Home, has a wonderful lesson on how to organize a grocery list by category. I have used that lesson ever since. My categories are: produce, meat, shelf, frozen, dairy, and of course, Amelia. Have a wonderful day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weekend Fun

The weekend is here! My wooden embroidery hoops have finally arrived in the mail, completing the supplies I need to make Checkout Girl's Little Pink House. It's so adorable and the tutorial is very easy to follow. True to form, I am beginning a new craft project in the middle of a few others (scarf, anyone?), but now that I have all that I need for this one I am itching to get started! Happy weekending!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Late Summer Salsa

Elsewhere in the country, people are pulling out their knits and woolens and baking autumn foods with cinnamons and spices. Though that sounds delightful, here in North Florida it is still over 90 degrees. Instead of lamenting, we are considering it an extended summer and enjoying some of our favorite summer treats like this delicious salsa! Our recipe has morphed over the years, and you can change ratios and add ingredients to suit your taste, but this is its basic form:

Salsa Ingredients:
- 1 15-ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 15-ounce can red beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 15.5-ounce jar of store-bought salsa, medium heat
- 1 basket of grape tomatoes, sliced
- 3-4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
- 1 small avocado, diced (if you can't find ripe ones, omit)
- juice of two limes
- salt to taste

Mix ingredients and chill for at least 4 hours before serving with tortilla chips. Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Renewed Sense of Wonder X2

All of the old adages are true, of course; having a child does allow you to once again see the world through a child's eyes. Oh, and we have. We have investigated red ant piles, watched crabs scurry into their holes in the sand, and marveled at the different sizes of pine cones lining the sidewalks of our neighborhood. Most serendipitously, all three of us are finding wonder all over again through the eyes of our curious and rambunctious four-legged family member. Who knew?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can't Wait to See How it Is!

I have a problem, well, several actually. I buy books at a rate that alarms my husband. I also buy books based on the beauty of their covers. And if the book takes place in Maine? It's coming home with me for certain! I can't wait to dive into this novel by Christina Baker Kline. The cover is gorgeous (so is that outfit!), plus it's women's fiction, and it's set in Maine. Bliss! The good news for all of my friends is that I do not hoard my books, I pass them on excitedly to those I think would enjoy them. If this one is as good as it looks, I will gladly pass it on my friends!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Significance of a Little Black Chair

This little chair has big meaning in our household. It has come to represent how I choose to be as hands-on a mom as I can be. Beginning when she was about 18 months old, Amelia asked to help me "make it," i.e., cook (see where the blog name came from?). And...I let her and have been letting her ever since. It began with practical reasoning; the black desk chair will show less dirt and mess than the white ones from the kitchen table. Now, after years of "making it" it's a part of the process, sometimes unspoken and sometimes not, "Time to make dinner! Yay! I'll go get the black chair!"

The Makings of a Good Morning

For the past month or so, I have been waking up a little earlier each morning in order to have some special "girl time" with Amelia and our tiny doggie Isa (who is also a girl). We have developed quite a little routine of getting all of our necessary items ready: blanket, vanilla milk, coffee, laptop for mama, and Magic School Bus for Amelia. Once the items are gathered the three of us pile onto each other, sharing just the one blanket and one couch cushion simply for the snuggles of it. We have come to find that we are not "hit the ground running" kind of girls, so we are loving this gentle start to each day.

Ordinary Bits

Ooohh! I'm a blogger now. I must say I feel much hipper than I truly am. The pressure is on! As I say in About Me, I am looking to document the everyday ordinary bits that make me happy: mothering, crafting, cooking, writing, reading, etc. First up? My second attempt (and hopefully first successful attempt) at knitting. This will be a scarf for Amelia, out of very yummy yarn in a combination of mine and her daddy's favorite colors (since her favorites change daily). Since today is the first day we have turned off the a/c and opened the windows, I think I am fine on time ;). For now, I'll just enjoy carting this adorable bushel basket from room to room.