Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Ok, not literally. Figuratively I will be out of my blogland office while I am whisked off by my husband to Maine! I wish everyone a lovely long weekend and will return with the grand opening of The Custom Caterpillar (and probably a gazillion pictures) on Tuesday, June 1st. See you then!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Makings of Teacher Gifts

It's that time of year! We spent the evening putting together the items we gathered this weekend for Amelia's teachers. I am so grateful for their dedication to creating a fun and engaging learning environment where Amelia thrives. Her classroom teachers will get a collection of fun summer items with a little hand painted present from Amelia (see above, they are really cute photo clips from Michael's). We never want to leave out Special Area teachers, so they are each getting drawings from Amelia with gift cards to our newest frozen yogurt shop (because it's going to be a hot one!). Many thanks to teachers everywhere!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Item #3: Three Little Fishies

Three Little Fishies is my first embroidery/applique piece for The Custom Caterpillar! It's a 6" hand painted wooden embroidery hoop "frame" surrounding three friendly goldfish with eyes made of sequins and beads~all hand stitched. This charming little fish bowl would make a great addition to a nursery or child's room no matter the gender! Would you like to add your little one's name in the sand? Let me know!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ladybug for Sarah

Where did the name for The Custom Caterpillar come from? Well, it was a collaborative effort between me and one of my 8th grade students! In return, she asked for a hot pink ladybug. One hot pink ladybug coming right up! I made this on one of those tiny 3 x 4 inch canvases so that she could make it a locker magnet or easily tack it onto a bulletin board as teenagers do. Many thanks to Sarah!
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PS: Speaking of The Custom Caterpillar...Item #3 revealed tomorrow!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Barefoot Break

It's Sunday. Barefoot Sunday typically around these parts. But, for the next few weeks as I am miles away in body (Maine!) and spirit (The Custom Caterpillar!) I am going to have to take a wee sabbatical from the kitchen. We can't uncover the kitchen table anyhow...
What about the studio table you ask? Um, I can't uncover that either ;)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Petal Share

On Mother's Day Amelia sweetly brought me home a beautiful mixed bouquet of flowers from the grocery store. She was so smitten with a few certain kinds that gathered them up and put them in a separate jar for her to keep on her night table. She was so excited about this--it made me wonder why it never occurred to me before, especially since I like to break up grocery bouquets in interesting ways. I will certainly be sharing the petal love my with little one from now on!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Little Knitted Bag

This little project was some homework that I gave myself (I am a teacher after all!) to practice a few techniques before delving into more complex knitting territory (hats, etc.). My objectives were: to become comfortable with the stockinette stitch, which comes from alternating rows of garter and purl stitches, and to learn how to make a button hole. I am very grateful to the gracious expert knitters who publish their how-to videos free on youtube. It took me about 45 minutes of watching and re-watching the video with a laptop warming my lap and needles in my hands to figure it out, but a button hole was made.
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Now what to keep in my new little bag? Hmm...shop card perhaps ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

D + J 4 Ever

Today is  our 10 year wedding anniversary! I don't really have much to say other than I love him so much! When I got home from work today he presented me with a plain paper box with a red ribbon bow. Inside: 
That's right! He is taking me to Maine next weekend! MAINE! Where the crafty bloggers live! I have not been on a real vacation since...never. I am SO overwhelmed and excited! Thank you Jason!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hand-painted Graphic Tees II

Happy Birthday to my dad and brother!! Yup, they share the same birthday--isn't that cool?
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Some of you may remember this fingerprint graphic tee that Amelia and I made my dad for Christmas. Making a simple design out of her fingerprints was a fun way to include her in the process while still generating a wearable shirt. I wanted to reprise that idea, so I decided to tape off a rectangle shape and have Amelia paint whatever she wanted inside: 
When the tape was peeled away it looked like this: 
It's still hand painted and designed by Amelia, but in a scaled-down version. 
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I wanted in on this too, of course. When I was younger and my dad and I would paint or draw together we would sign our names and then draw a little bicycle under the signatures (though I have no idea why!). So, I made this:  
Happy birthday dad! Now, in case you were wondering, my brother received gifts of the store-bought variety which I am sure he didn't mind a bit!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Blossom Tree

Item #2 for The Custom Caterpillar shop launching June 1st on Etsy! The Blossom Tree is an 8 x 10 inch mixed media canvas with a hand painted tree and sky and delicate blossoms made of the prettiest pink, light aqua, and taupe papers. Can you spot the birdie? She is made of paper too ;) The Blossom Tree has painted sides with a hand drawn silver accent, so no additional framing is necessary when you hang the original. Of course, prints will be made available too!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Amelia's First Recital

Here is my not-so-little one waiting for her turn on stage yesterday evening. She had been waiting for this moment ever since beginning ballet classes back in the fall. She did an amazing job and she definitely loved performing in front of an audience--we were so proud! The afternoon felt like a bit of a time warp of sorts, as it seems like just yesterday I was the one sitting on the counter (or washing machine, as it were) having my mom put on my first dose of stage make-up. Does Amelia have the ballet bug? Who knows? When we got in the car she said, "That was fun. Now, when can I cut my hair and play soccer?" Soon, my darling, very soon...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Peanut Butter Icing...on Chocolate Cupcakes

These were decadent, dreamy, and delicious...and really so easy because I used Betty Crocker German Chocolate Cake mix for the cupcakes and then made the icing from scratch. I love to mix and match recipes like that, so that I can get the homemade wow-factor without spending the entire day in the kitchen. The light and airy quality from the German chocolate provided some balance with the icing so that the result was not sickly sweet or overly heavy. It was just right. Yum, yum, yum. The full recipe (with scratch cupcakes and all) is right here. I substituted half and half for the heavy cream for shopping's sake. 
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Other cupcake tips and tricks: 
* Use an ice cream scoop to dispense the batter evenly into the cups: 
* Be sure to fully cool cupcakes before frosting. The peanut butter icing, in particular, will melt right off if you don't (if you are impatient, just eat a few bald cupcakes in the meantime ;). 
Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Works in Progress

I have two canvases (canvi?) in the works right now...one will make a precious addition to a nursery and the other fantastic for really any age. Once these are out of the queue I have some more "boyish" designs taking shape in my head. Superfun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Zucchini Week, Final Installment!

We've had zucchini both baked and fried this week--now we end in flourish with a final saute. For the amount of tastiness this yields, it's really very simple and easy. 
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In a pan, I sauteed:
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- 2  tomatoes, seeded and juiced and then chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic (I leave them whole so that I can fish them out before serving)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper


We served it over grilled chicken and had a very light and flavorful meal. This is a quick weeknight meal that can also be gussied up for company with a nice crusty bread and heavier dessert. Speaking of dessert, I'm feeling like a chocolate-based Barefoot Sunday this weekend...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pretty Pictures Post

All three of us are under the weather today, two of us staying home from school/work from the start with one joining the family in misery and company later in the afternoon. Sigh. I won't belabor the point. Instead, I will show you some of my favorite pictures from our most recent trip to the local nursery: 
Be well my friends! I am headed back to my spot on the couch...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zucchini Week, Continued!

The delicious zucchini bread pictured above is from this recipe link, which was sent to me by my friend Kim last week (Thanks K!). May I just say how yummy the house smells while this bread is in the oven! And even though it's on the healthier side, the cinnamon goodness tips it into the comfort food category for me. I found it fast and easy to make with ingredients that didn't require a special grocery trip. I highly recommend giving it a try and then eating a big slice when you get up in the morning...and when you get home from work...and right before bed...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Purl Jam

I was at a stuck point in making art for the shop last night. My creative brain was up and running but my hands were not cooperating. Rather than force it, I decided to pick up my new-to-me knitting book (thanks Jill!) and figure out this mysterious creature called the purl stitch (so far all of my projects have been made using only the basic garter stitch). I did it! This allowed me to finally figure out the even more elusive stockinette pattern. Oh my, things are gettin' crazy now! In celebration of my finally figuring this all out, I took myself to Michael's where I bought two pretty skeins of the softest yarn and some circular knitting needles. Then I came home to find a Michael's coupon in my email inbox. Dang! I guess I'll look on the bright side and consider it an opportunity for more shopping later this week ;)
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PS: Pardon the post title. I love puns...and also Pearl Jam. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Zucchini Week!

We got our second CSA batch on Saturday (more on CSA's later) and were so excited to get the choice between a slew of zucchini or a slew of squash. Um, zucchini please! 
This first zucchini dish is an old family favorite. We come from a small town in Italy with a very rural dialect, so I am uncertain about accurately communicating the name of these little guys. For blogland, let's call them zucchini fritters. Do notice, my dears, that they are not called "light" zucchini fritters ;)
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Here's how you make them: 
- Shred two zucchini into a bowl, add a generous pinch of salt, let sit for 20-30 minutes
- Squeeze out/drain all of the water (there is a surprising amount)
- Mix in:
     - 3 eggs
     - 1.5 cups of flour
     - 1 tsp. salt
- Add water until the mixture becomes a pancake batter-like consistency. 
- Fry spoonfuls in corn or canola oil mixed with olive oil for about 2-3 minutes per side. 
- Drain on paper towels and sprinkle on salt 
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Eat Immediately!!
PS: While it does seem a little silly to remove water and then two minutes later add water, the process does a lot for the consistency of both the zucchini and the batter : ) 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Flower For All

I procrastinated this post today, though I wrote it and rewrote it in my head several times over.  Having had a bittersweet relationship with this day a time or two, and wishing to not alienate any sweet souls out there,  I just couldn't find the right words. Then I stumbled on my friend Rebecca's Facebook post this evening and respectfully borrowed some bits of it:
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Prayers, love, and hugs to all those out there who can't be with their mothers on Mother's Day this year...and to all those wonderful women out there who want desperately to be mothers and haven't had the chance yet. You are to be honored this day, too!
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I wish each and every one of you a lovely evening!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lake

We took a short break from a very full "Suburban Saturday" to walk around the lake.
Now we are hunkered down for what looks and sounds like a very stormy and squally night. Keep dry my fellow Florida friends!
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PS: The bottom picture is my favorite. Clearly they are endeared to one another in some capacity. Best girl friends? Sweethearts? Only for them to know I suppose...

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Pesky Pea

Here it is! This will be Item #1 for sale at The Custom Caterpillar on June 1st. The Pesky Pea is an 8x10 inch canvas mixed media piece, with a combination of acrylic paint, scrapbook paper decoupage, and colored pencil details. The painted "frame" extends to finish each side, so no additional framing will be necessary! This would be a charming addition to any little girl's room, as it tells a fun and whimsical story using many complementary patterns and colors. In fact, when I was putting on the finishing touches Amelia said, "I love this. Is this for my room?" I guess I have some explaining to do about how Mommy's shop will work :0) 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Little This and That

Hello my darlings! I have been a busy bee this evening working on various items for the shop (you know I can't work on just one thing at a time (snooze fest)). I promise you that I will be unveiling The Custom Caterpillar Item #1: The Pesky Pea on tomorrow's post. Yay!
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Until then, check out these lovely goodies I received in the mail today. I won The Butterfly Mom's Earth Day giveaway: 
Maybe now I can expand my horizons past the garter stitch. Thanks Jill!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We Like To Celebrate

                                           Isa the Chihuahua
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As you may know, today is Cinco de Mayo, so we had our fair share of tacos, burritos, limey drinks, and queso this evening. Then we piled in the bed for a little siesta (well, watching cartoons together...though I did fall asleep for just a bit!). Why? Because we like to celebrate and will use any excuse to do so!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fun With Photoshop

My family got me all sorts of wonderful toys for Christmas, Photoshop among them. Over four months later I am finally getting the hang of it, with the help of my crafty pal/tech guru Jayne. Recently she taught me how to "magic wand" away a background and fancy-up the image. I gave myself a little homework assignment last night to practice: 
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Before: 
After: 
How cute is that?! This process is very addictive. I already made the Photoshopped image into a gift tag for someone's present that needs to arrive in the mail by this Sunday (ahem). Now I am off to go "magic wand" something...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Arbor Day Rewind

We did it! We planted two trees in celebration of Arbor Day this year. One trident maple and one plum (plum-colored, that is, not plum-producing). It took quite a lot of meandering through the nursery to find trees that suited our full-sun yard as well as our wallets. Quite frankly, we also needed to consider trees that we could physically transport and plant! After a very long day of mostly digging we were able to admire our handy work and imagine what our currently full-sun yard might look like with a teensy bit of shade. It's relaxing just to think about...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Penne With Five Cheeses

Okay, friends: I did not make this dish today, but I have been meaning to tell you all about it since I prepared it a few weeks back...
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Penne with five cheeses is one of the more well-known Ina Garten recipes, appearing on Barefoot Contessa in an episode that replays frequently. If you've tuned in to that particular show, you know that everyone just oohs, aahs, and yums over this stuff. I had to see what all the fuss was about!
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The fuss is warranted; it is very rich and delicious. I must give fair warning, however. It is super-rich. As in, you'll want to serve it with a green salad and a super-light dessert for fear of having to roll your guests out the door at the end of the evening. As the chef, you'll want to try to forget the ingredients so that you can enjoy it thoroughly (and not imagine the celery you'll need to eat all week to balance it out!). I don't mean for this to be a negative review of this dish, as it was tasty. I just figure that it's best to know this sort of thing going in!
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PS: Here's the recipe :) 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Launching June 1 on Etsy...

That's right, friends. Exactly one month from today I will be an official shop girl! This has been a long time in the making. Well, not this exactly but different versions of a career in making things. There have been tears and disappointments along the way. There has been fear. But there has also been steady preparation, dreaming, hope, and help. Now, about this shop...
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I wanted to stick to what I know and love best: kids! So, my teeny corner of the art and craft world, The Custom Caterpillar, will be devoted to making art for babies, children, and teens (I can't leave out my middle schoolers!). I remember how difficult it was to find just the right finishing touches for Amelia's nursery and then again for her big-girl room. My mission is to make this process friendly, fun, and special for parents and their little ones. I will have art for sale and will also create custom orders, making just the right piece for you!
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What kind of art do you ask? My specialties include acrylic paint on canvas (with some layered paper mixed in), colored pencil sketches, and embroidery/applique. As we count down to shop-time I will be featuring items on the blog, sharing my techniques here and there as I go (I am a teacher after all). 
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And now, at the risk of getting all sappy, may I just say a sincere thank you to those of you who supported this idea even before I had it. Blessings!