Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Eggs & Nest

We had a lovely time today dying Easter eggs at a friend's house. She graciously opened up her home to many little ones and allowed them to make a mess and then fed us all a yummy lunch. Such fun! We Mamas stood around, smitten with our brood--looking so precious in spring clothing, and remarked on how much each of the children's personalities were revealed by his/her egg-dying method (fast and furious, slow and methodical, hesitant to choose, etc.). I wonder what the adult equivalent would be? Starbucks ordering? Hmm...
And our paper bag bird's nests?
They are dry and just so darn cute...especially for a project that kept Amelia happily engaged and was very nearly free. My only added detail was trimming the edges just a little bit, making it look more like a bird's nest and less like a sombrero. Maybe when Cinco de Mayo rolls around we can adapt for that ;)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Painted Wall Detail

Here is our next installment of making Amelia a "big girl room" on a budget. If you remember, the first order of business was getting her a real bookshelf. We personalized an inexpensive shelf by painting the back wall pink
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Now we had another wall to tackle. I wanted to keep the name letters that we painstakingly painted white five years ago (they hung over her crib) but felt like giving them an updated, more "glamorous" look, if you will. Here is what came of that idea:
The left-over bookshelf paint came in handy for creating a pink background for the letters to rest on. I used painter's tape to map out the rectangle and then filled in the pink with a paint brush (brushing from the tape inward to minimize paint bleeding under the tape. When I pulled off the tape, I was pleasantly surprised to find a crisp line with this method. However, it still needed a little "something." In a contrasting darker pink paint (regular craft paint), I made little dots by stamping with the eraser end of a pencil: 
This took forever, but I am in love with how it turned out. Jason and I both agree that the eraser detail "makes it." Now we are two projects down with one to go and it's a big one, folks. Details soon. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Five

Amelia turned five today! The three of us spent the day together doing all sorts of fun things: playing games, playing with new toys, and taking a riverboat ride where we saw many alligators and turtles. Since we had her party and official cake last weekend, Amelia was unsure of what she would like for her "real" birthday dessert. Keeping in mind that I wanted something special, but that it would be just the three of us, I came up with this: 
After making the Rice Krispies treats according to box directions, I flattened them out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I then chilled them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes so that they would be set enough to cut into shape. I used a pizza cutter to cut out the number. After nearly losing a finger, I am going to recommend that you find an alternate cutting method if you try this at home :). To make it ever so slightly more special, I surrounded the "5" with pink M n' Ms (a task made much easier when your little one is born around Easter). 
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Amelia really loved this dessert, both in taste and presentation. I am currently thinking of all of the ways you could change it up to suit you: clovers and green candies on St. Patrick's, etc. I am sure you'll be seeing a version or two of this again someday! Happy Birthday Amelia!
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PS: Tune in tomorrow for a cool way to personalize a wall in a child's bedroom :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Roasted Eggplant Spread

I made this tasty, low fat spread yesterday afternoon so that we could snack while grilling our dinner. It's very simple to do. Chop up vegetables and toss them with olive oil (what looks like potatoes below is really peeled eggplant): 
Then roast, blend, eat! We ate some hot out of the oven, at room temperature, and also chilled as a snack today. Taste-wise, I would recommend serving at room temperature.
For the full recipe, click here. Happy snacking!
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PS: The original recipe from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook calls for tomato paste (which I used). The online recipe lists tahini instead. I say go with what you have on hand!
PPS: Peeling an eggplant is a tricky little task!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birds' Nests in Progress

I found a fun and easy project on Alpha Mom--brown bag bird's nests! Using shredded brown grocery bags and glue, you and your little ones can get messy (in a good way) and make some adorable nests.  Click here for the full tutorial. I do not have a picture of our finished nests because they will need to dry for a few days (with our amount of glue maybe more than a few days), but here are some progress pictures: 
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Making: 
Drying: 
PS: We added a little Easter grass too...just to liven things up a little!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Facing Your Fears

Alas, I did not make the top twelve in the photo contest [insert wistful sigh here], but I thank each of you wholeheartedly for your enthusiasm and support. I do feel good about being brave and putting myself out there for review, because that was kind of scary. Fear can be such a roadblock between us and our goals, dreams, desires, etc. What I know for sure is that I am not alone in that. The photo above is Isa and her roadblock: the doggie door. These last few days she has faced her fear and nosed through all by herself! So, on this Friday evening I hope that I, along with my four-pound-dog, can inspire you to be brave and inch toward a goal this weekend. Best of luck!
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Oh, and I would love to hear about it :) 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lovely Ordinary

I adored today's Daisy Cottage post. Kim wrote (and photographed beautifully) the comfort and peace that can come from the enjoyment of ordinary tasks. She wrote about laundry, deciding to appreciate her outdoor laundry space rather than resent it. 
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In kind, I have an image from our latest jaunt through the carwash. I love that car washes are actually greener than washing your own. I love that it is as good as an amusement park ride to a small child. I love that, from the inside, the view can be magical if you catch it just right: 
I wish for you peace and enjoyment in the ordinary!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Strawberries in Balsamic

Strawberries drenched in balsamic vinegar: an intriguing combination I saw on a rerun of Good Eats in the very wee hours of the morning (is everyone having such a struggle with this time change??). It being strawberry season where we are, I decided to give it a whirl: 
It was quite different, but certainly tasty. I headed to Foodnetwork.com to check out more complex recipes for it (of which there are many). A little ricotta cheese may be the next thing I add...hmm. 
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PS: Thank you all so much for your comments and emails about the contest. This evening I submitted "Spring Has Sprung," a.k.a. the one with the hose. Fingers crossed for making the first round!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So There's This Contest...

...It's a photography contest over at Bloom called Everyday Spring. I really want to submit one of my photographs, but cannot decide which one. Will you help? Here are the front-runners:
Let's number them 1-5, beginning from the top. The submission is due by Thursday; I'd love to know your thoughts via comments or emails. Thanks everyone!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Makings of Magnets

Amelia tore into each and every present she received this weekend, wearing every given item and playing and creating with every toy {insert huge mess here}. This was a fun one: Opti-Art Glass Magnet Kit. It came with everything we needed to create 12 glass magnets, beginning with these pretty glass stones:  
Amelia was so excited that her artwork would be soon holding up her artwork on the fridge-double the fun! Painting was quick and easy, though a tad mind-blowing (for me ;) in painting on letters since you needed to paint the images in reverse. 
We love how they turned out!
Once dry, you cut the magnet sheet to size and stick the pieces on the back. Be careful on magnet size: I think I cut mine too small. What we thought may be an intruder or hungry raccoon in the house last night turned out to be falling glass magnets!
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PS: Amelia thanks her pal Brendon for such a fun present!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Lemon Angel Food Cake

Thank you to my friend Carie who inspired me with this idea yesterday when I was fresh out of inspiration. I had never made any kind of angel food cake before, so this would surely be an adventure. 
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The recipe, found right here at Foodnetwork.com, calls for about 10-12 egg whites. To achieve proper results, the eggs must come to room temperature (don't forget!):
Prep time was about twenty minutes, and not particularly difficult at all...I'm thinking it was rated 'intermediate' online due to the organization required to pull it off (and lots of bowls and measuring utensils!). When all was said and done: a fluffy, slightly lemony, delicious angel food cake: 
Trials and Tribulations:
  • There were mixed reviews online about how easy it is to get the cake out of the pan. I did have difficulty with this, so the tippy top of the cake sported some "baldness."
  • I was not able to find cake flour, nor super fine sugar at my grocery store. I used all-purpose flour and granulated sugar and increased the whipping time to accommodate. You gotta do what you gotta do!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Party Favors

Today was Amelia's bouncy party day! We all had a wonderful time and Amelia was just over-the-moon about it being "her" day and having her school chums come and bounce in celebration with us. To thank them for coming, we put together some favors for them to take home and enjoy. 
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My mom and I set up assembly-line style at the kitchen table last night after Amelia was in bed (thanks, Mom!):
The favors included a pad of plain drawing paper, various stickers, and a pack of crayons (Isa approved!):
We wrapped them up in decorative cellophane bags from the dollar store. I felt a little bad that the boys had flowery bags (despite "boyish" stickers on the inside), so at the last minute I added pink and blue tags to personalize just a little:
And now? We rest a little bit!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rites of Passage

Miss Amelia got her ears pierced today, thus fully propelling her into "little girl" status. If I may brag on my child for a moment: there was only one person working at the jewelry store, preventing us from having the two-person-piercing strategy. We gave Amelia the choice between piercing one at a time (explaining that when it hurt once, she would need to sit still and essentially be willingly hurt again) or coming back a few hours later. We knew she would choose to do it then. What we did not know was how amazingly brave and strong she would be! She is a very brave and strong child, but this was above and beyond. She had such an uncertain, pained, and possibly nauseous expression after the first pierce, but she sat still and got the second one done. Get this? No tears. She is amazing!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All Done! Basket Weave Heart

You see? I needed a deadline, that's all. Even a pretend one. What came of the basket weave felt pattern from Tuesday was a little stuffed heart. This could be a doll pillow, a simple stuffed toy, or even a pincushion. I got nervous about half-way through because the weaves were puckering and sliding around. However, once the heart was stuffed it pushed the weaves taught enough to stay in place. There are many free resources online for making stuffed items like this one. My secret trick to share with you? I traced a cookie cutter for the heart pattern!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lovely Surprises

I got a lovely surprise with the ringing of the doorbell this evening...my Mom! A full day early!! So excuse my abbreviated post, as I am about to head to the couch for some catching up. 
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Speaking of surprises and lovelies, here is my Mom's birthday present, wrapped in the latest free pattern by Sharilyn at LovelyDesign (she is so generous and talented!):
You may remember that I wrapped Valentine gifts in her February pattern. When I was reading back through the blog comments on Sharilyn's post (love doing that), I noticed someone named Mary said that she hoped her March birthday presents were wrapped in such pretty prints. I turned to Jason and said, "I bet you a dollar this is my Mom's comment." And it was. Ask and she shall receive!
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Happy Wednesday and St. Patrick's Day to all!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Basket Weave Felt

I nearly entitled this post "Procrastination," since I have been steadily not working on this little project for some time now. The issue is that I am all done with the fun parts and now don't feel like getting around to the actual meat of the project. At least I am finally ready to show you how I did the basket weave design:
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* I cut strips of felt with pinking shears to get those fun, raggedy edges. Then they got lined up as evenly as I could manage. And, yes, that is Amelia's stuffed hedgehog in the picture. I'm a messy crafter!
* Then I placed the pink strips on top crosswise. 
* I pinned only one end of each strip to begin with, bending the pink strips back to get ready for weaving. I then "over-undered" each strip alternately. Once I was done with a row, I pinned the other side of the strip down to secure it.
* All done! Next I will be doing french knots to hold the felt in place once the pins are removed. 
What am I making? My goal is to show you by Thursday. Now that I have set a deadline things should move at a slightly speedier pace ;)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ides, Progress


It is the Ides of March! As we are at the halfway point (though I can barely believe that), I wanted to update our March "One Small Change." This month we are committed to experiencing the fresh air, even if it is still a bit nippy. It's been good so far. I am hopeful that it will be a great second half now that we have sprung the clocks forward (incidentally, I snooze-buttoned seven times this morning...eesh). Here are my favorite fresh air pictures thus far:
 Thanks for visiting today! If you would like more information on the One Small Change project click here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Cheese Straws

A little afternoon snack was in order today, especially since our appetites were all out of whack from the time change. I already had some frozen puff pastry in the freezer, so the cheese straws from Barefoot in Paris were an easy choice. 
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The tricky part? It occurs early on in the recipe: remembering to defrost the pastry dough in the refrigerator: 
Then all you do is roll it out, brush it with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water), and sprinkle with the ingredients (salt, pepper, fresh thyme, parmesan, and Gruyère cheese). Use a rolling pin to lightly press the sprinklings into the dough before cutting the dough into strips. Then twist them and bake at 375 for 10 or so minutes before flipping them over and baking for another 2. 
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Here is what they were supposed to look like: 
This is what they did look like: 
Not quite the level of perfection that Ina has mastered; however they were very delicious, getting a seal of approval from both Jason and Amelia :) 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Farmer's Market

Spring is ever so close...close enough to taste, really. Driving to ballet class this morning we were excited to see that the local farm stands and artist's market were back up and running for the season. We came home today with fresh and fragrant garlic, beautiful beans to snap tomorrow, and wonderfully round potatoes. We also came home with pretty pictures (which I asked to take only after making a purchase or two;). 
I just love weekends...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom's birthday--happy birthday, Mom!! She is far away so I am sending her this birthday "cupcake" through the blogosphere (she is visiting next week where she will get her actual presents--we can't wait!).
The idea for this cupcake came from Betz White's book Warm Fuzzies. The process is really simple and a great way to use extra scraps of ribbon and fabric; or in my case, shirts and sweaters that I have ruined with olive oil stains ;) It is  technically a pincushion, which I think would make a great gift to a new crafter, along with a fresh box of pretty pins. 
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PS: Betz White is also the designer behind Amelia's Valentine hedgehog--I just love her stuff!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Customizing a Store-Bought Shelf

We continue to make steady progress in the subtle transformation of turning Amelia's room into one suitable for a 5-year-old. This weekend, out went the nursery chair (bittersweet feelings about that) and in came a book shelf. We were able to purchase a very reasonably priced shelf from Target that we put together ourselves. I wanted to customize it a bit, making it fit in the overall design of the room. So...
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We went to the hardware store in search of a pretty shade of pink that would complement her current wall color. Success!:
Then, before attaching it to the back of the shelf, I painted the interior back "wall" pink: 
If you try this at home, be sure to move quickly and not use too much paint. When I became slightly sloppy with excess paint, the paper backing started to distort. Other than that, it was a quick and satisfying fix to a boring shelf!
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PS: The poodle skirt made it through the rock n'roll party day in tact--and it had quite a good "spin-factor" as well:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Adapted Corn Fritter Recipe...And I'm Totally Starstruck

This is one of those instances where you think to yourself, "Man, I love the internet." My most favorite author, Mia King, commented on my very own blog yesterday! She was interested in my adapted corn fritter recipe, so here it goes!
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The reason the recipe needed tweaking was because I was not able to find Chinese peppercorn, crème fraîche, nor sherry at my grocery store (the people who live in my same town will groan in understanding). I did some internet searching for reasonable substitutions and came up with this: 
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Ingredients: 
1 cup fresh corn kernels (off the cob). I needed three cobs to produce one cup of kernels: 
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs (original recipe called for 1)
2 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup water (replacing sherry)
1/4 cup sour cream (vs. crème fraîche)
Generous pinch each of: red pepper flakes, black pepper, chili powder (replacing Chinese peppercorn)
Salt to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon or so in the batter, then sprinkled to taste on hot fritters)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


From Good Things:

  1. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients (except olive oil). 
  2. Bring a skillet to medium high heat; add olive oil. 
  3. Drop spoonfuls of batter, forming four fritters, cooking until bottoms are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Flip carefully and cook an additional 2 minutes. Drain any excess oil. 



**My Notes:

  1. I sprinkled salt to taste while the fritters were still piping hot. 
  2. If you double the recipe, remember that the second batch will cook faster than the first batch since the pan is already so hot!
  3. For a party, you can set aside a few clean husks for decoration: 


Enjoy! Thank you, Mia!