Friday, February 29, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Project

I'm going to try to turn this painting into a small quilt for Talia. I've never done any major applique so it will be interesting to see how it turns out (no pun intended-- get it? "needle turn applique"-- get it?). I traced the drawing backwards onto freezer paper, ironed the pieces onto the wrong side of the fabric and cut them out. Now I'm going to turn the raw edges (do I sew into the paper or under the paper? I've seen both methods described online) and then sew them onto the main fabric. Any help with this project (since I don't have enough other projects going on...) would be appreciated (so any of you expert applique people feel free to point me in the right direction). It's nice to have some hand work to do, then I can catch up on some bad tv while I work.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Quilt Concepts

I was sketching out a new quilt and Talia wanted to make her own. Not only did she sit for a LONG time working on it, she has been wanting to work on it (and others) more more more. She seems to relish the graph paper (OCD?) and likes the colored pencils too. Now if only she'd be willing to accompany me down to the craft room/ basement I might be able to actually GET SOMETHING DONE. I offer to let her watch princess movies or even PAINT on her easel down there but she doesn't want to go. Probably because I pay absolutely NO ATTENTION to her whatsoever when we're there.

If anyone has suggestions to help me get her into the basement (which is completely finished and comfy, filled with toys and has her own art space with many exciting tools...) please let me know!
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Quiet Weekend at Home

If someone had told me a year ago that I would think temperatures in the low 30's are WARM I'd have laughed my ass off. On Sunday we took a family walk down to Beansprouts Cafe. Talia has never liked the food there (I don't particularly either) but Alex sort of liked one of the babyfood dishes they had. The chalkboard, toys and light filled space are always a hit though. It's something to do...

We also went to "family swim" at SwimWest, the place where T takes her swimming lessons. It's a pain to get all the gear and towels together (plus the subsequent laundry) but we're always looking for new and exciting family adventures. Alex certainly enjoyed himself. Talia liked it too- especially since she could wear her floaties. Hopefully she won't give me a fuss about swim lessons this afternoon. I really do want her to learn to swim. Apparently she's improving since I can move her to the next level for the spring session but she definitely doesn't want to go. I think she generally has a good time once she's there.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Getting Greener

Since it isn't getting any greener outside with all this snow, we've decided to go greener inside. I already seem to have mastered the "no more plastic grocery bags" concept and rarely forget to bring my envirosax. (Love the envriosax, thanks Mom! I've tried using a collection of canvas bags but these work really well and are so easy to carry around...) I was actually so good at remembering them that I ran out of paper bags to use for recycling. I had to "forget" them so I could get a few paper bags at the grocery! I wanted to do MORE this year so I've started two new projects:

1. Reducing the number of ziploc bags I use and reusing the ones I already have
2. Composting my kitchen waste

The ziploc bag thing is going well. I started using a lot more gladware for things like lemons and onions that go in the fridge. I'm also not using any ziplocs for lunches either. I bought wax bags and paper bags for some other things I used to use ziplocs for, like stickers and other little items. I was about to order a ziploc bag drying rack online when I thought... I can make that! I wanted to paint a flowerpot to match the Marimekko container I'm using for my large utensils and I was going to fill it with the colored rocks you use in fish tanks and then stick wooden chopsticks inside to hold the bags open. I bought everything to complete this task but... I haven't gotten to it yet. So I took one of Talia's flower pots and filled it with rice. It's working out great. I can't believe how many ziplocs I used in the past. What a waste! I'm also saving all my plastic containers for my garden projects. Right now Alex likes to take them out of the cabinet to play with. We'll be planting something soon, I hope!

I don't want to throw my kitchen scraps in the garbage anymore where they'll sit in plastic bags for 100 years. It seems so wrong. I've been using Rachel Ray's "Garbage Bowl" concept for a while now so every night when I'm cleaning up from dinner I literally have a bucket of compostable materials that I toss in the trash. I did a little research and realized that I don't have to wait until spring to begin this project. I just took a heavy duty Rubbermaid container from my basement and have started to fill it with waste. It's easy, doesn't smell (yet?) and makes me feel pretty good. I also feel slightly less bad about the food that goes to waste in our fridge--I just toss it in the compost bin. In the springtime I'll move it out to whatever are I set up for a compost pile.
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Recent Eats: Spoonbread and Prizewinning Green Beans

Spoonbread is so yummy. I first tried it as an accompaniment to some dish at Buddakan, one of Philadelphia's best restaurants. (Trust me, everything on the menu is great, especially the edamame ravioli and the crispy calamari salad...) I saw it in this month's Real Simple magazine and decided to make it at home. It came out great-- browned so nicely on the top and moist inside. It was even really good as a leftover too, I think putting it back in the oven to warm was key. Here's the recipe:

Unsalted Butter (for the pan)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 10-oz pk frozen corn
1 bunch scallions
salt and pepper
2 eaggs, beaten

1. Heat oven to 350
2. Butter an 8-inch baking dish
3. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat
4. Whisk in the cornmeal until thickened, about 2 min
5. Stir in the corn, scallions, salt and pepper
6. Remove from heat, stir in the beaten eggs.
7. Pour in the baking dish and bake until set and golden around the edges, about 40 minutes.


Prizewinning Green Beans with Tomatoes and Herbs

Got a new cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini published by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. I like how it's organized-- by vegetable. It has tips on storage as well which is pretty useful... This was my first dish from the cookbook. It was pretty good. Ron said at first it was just ok but then grew on him to be prizewinning, as the name says.

2 tbl evoo
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c sliced onions
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 lb trimmed green beans, cut in half
1 sprig rosemary, leaves torn from stem
2 med tomatoes, chopped
salt or two tbl salted butter

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add garlic and pepper flakes; saute until fragrant.
3. Add inions, saute until translucent 3-5 min
4. Add 1/4 c water, dried spices and green beans. Cook/steam until beans are nearly done, 10-15 min
5. Stir in rosemary and tomatoes until toms are warm and beans are done.
6. Season with salt or salted butter.

This recipe won a prize at the 2002 Food for Thought Recipe Contest in Madison.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spring Fling Round Robin

I'm a little bit stressed about joining another quilt swap-- this time a round robin because I have a lot of things going on this spring: both kids' birthdays and parties, a trip to the Netherlands in April, various spring holidays, starting my first garden, many baby gifts to make etc. I decided to commit to the swap because it challenges me to think in different ways (for example, this swap is all about adding borders and with this I have little experience so I will have to keep my eyes open for inspiration) and helps me to feel part of a crafting community. I really enjoyed the Four Seasons Quilt Swap (though I felt rushed!) and well, my kids will just have to raise themselves!

To get a head start, I made my first quilt block tonight. It's not due for about a month but I know I have all of those other things coming up. If only I could have been this timely when I was in school. I thought about what I wanted to make for a few days and then headed down to the craft room for some fabric inspiration and came up with this. I do enjoy being scrappy. Each of those fabrics means so much to me and I keep sneaking them into various projects. I had other ideas, such as using solids for the square border and embroidering circles on them. I never realized how small 8X8 can seem! The center square is 4X4, the white border is 1" and the pieced border is also 1". That makes 8X8. I have no idea how another person will receive this block, add a border to it and turn it into something quite different. I think I'm supposed to send along a piece of fabric in order to help the next person tie it in (if they choose) but instead I'm adding a bunch of the scraps I used so that they can either use them or send them to the next person. Just to help them out. This swap should be exciting!
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Yes, We Can.

In November I'm going to vote for the Democratic Presidential Candidate, no matter who it is. There will be no thought, no hesitation, no fanfare, no big deal. This means, of course, that my political moment is NOW. Tomorrow is the Wisconsin primary and I have a decision to make. I always thought I would vote for a woman candidate as soon as I could. I went to an all-women college. I was a Feminist and Gender Studies major. I thought I would vote for Hillary all along this season. Then, a few weeks ago I began to change my mind. Ron says I'm jumping on a bandwagon. I just think I finally sat down to do a little homework. I am excited by Obama's message. I want change and I want to believe we can achieve it. I think Hillary already thinks she knows what she can accomplish as president because she has all that experience in the Senate and as First Lady. I think this means she will be more conservative and not try new things. I think the one thing we've learned from the last 8 years is that the predisent can pretty much do whatever he damn well pleases. I want a candidate who is going to reach for the stars. I want Obama and I will be voting for him tomorrow. No, I don't know everything about him. I read his blueprint for change and have listened to my share of NPR. His message resonates with young people who are tired of the status quo and want to try something new. I'm in. Yes, we can.

Rocket Applique

Somehow this is Alex's first pair of jeans! I appliqued some rockets, a planet and some stars on the cuffs and pockets. This was a favorite piece of fabric that I bought for burp cloths. Since he doesn't really use those anymore I needed a new place to display the fabric!
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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Four Seasons Quilt Swap: Winter, Received

Dear Jeanette,

Thank you so much for my quilt. As I have been mentioning in recent posts, this is a record breaking amount of snowfall for Wisconsin. It is also my first Wisconsin winter. Your quilt is perfect for me in that it reads: "home is the snowflakes fall." I love the embroidery, I love the teeny tiny splash of red in the heart. I love the heart YOU put into it. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post pictures of your beautiful quilt. Thank you for making it for me. I hope we can be lifelong quilt friends.

Love, Nikki
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Speaking of weather...

Remembering summer...
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Kid Yoga

Talia and I have been doing her YogaKids DVD. She really likes it and it is great exercise for her and a little for me as well. She also talks about yoga a lot these days-- which makes me seems like a cooler parent than I am. I want to find a yoga class for her here... (Just what we need, another activity!)
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Ice Skating!

Took Talia ice skating for the first time on Valentine's Day. She absolutely LOVED IT! The learning curve was very steep. She couldn't even stand for the first few minutes and by the end she was skating "by herself" while pushing the glider along. Definitely an activity we will be trying again!
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Crazy Weather We're Having

Record snowfall in Wisconsin this winter. Our first winter here, of course. This morning is rained, then snowed, then rained again. I'm sure it will freeze tonight. School will probably be cancelled again. I'm going to shoot myself if it is!
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Sick Boy

Alex was really sick yesterday. We even considered taking him to the ER. High fever, barely responding to Tylenol AND Motrin together. Only sleeping on us, not letting us put him down for a second. His little body was so hot hot hot. He was still drinking his bottles and peeing and all so we took a wait and see attitude. After about 20 hours his fever broke and he's been well ever since. He still woke up a bunch of times overnight and all, so we're still way tired but he's so much better. It wasn't until I saw him playing and smiling this morning that I realized how scared and sad I was for him yesterday. All better now. Whew.
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I sewed little treat bags for the kids in T's class. We stuffed them with our melted heart crayons, a Barbie valentine and tattoo. They were tied with stamped tags that had each kid's name on them and a teeny tiny picture of Talia. Notice how many more boys are in her class than girls. Despite having finished the crayons about two weeks ago, I was still really rushed to get them in on time!
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

12 months of my niece Marley

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!
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Sleep Disruption, Again

Both kids were sleeping pretty well. Talia was sleeping through the night (mostly), and Alex was only getting up once (or twice). Talia's nighttime routine, however, was taking FOREVER and she would freak out if I left her room before she was asleep. I implemented a plan:

Phase one: After bath, hair, teeth, potty, 2 to 3 (really long!) books, making sure she had her softie, her hexagon blanket, her kitties, wasn't too hot, had the right covers, maybe her babydoll, etc. I would set my watch for 10-20 minutes (depending on my assessment of her readiness for sleep) and then I would sit outside her door until she was asleep. This worked pretty well, especially since I could sit and read which is what I wanted to do anyway! The problem has been the days she takes a nap at school (or falls asleep in the car on non-school days). She wouldn't fall asleep until 10 or later. She got used to me sitting outside her door though and therefore got used to falling asleep on her own.

Then Phase two: I reimplemented the bribe. Sleep through the night for 5 nights (with a sticker chart, of course) and you can get a prize. She really wanted ballet slippers-- which I would have bought her anyway-- so we used that for the first prize. I set my watch for 10 minutes and then instead of sitting outside her room I told her I would be in my room. It worked slendidly. The second prize was a ballet skirt. She didn't get it as quickly. It took about 10 nights to get her 5 stickers because she had been "putting herself to sleep" but waking up in the middle of the night as well (There have been some minor illnesses going around). Even that was kind of different though because I didn't have to stay in her room until she was asleep again, just settle her and stay for a few minutes. At the same time, after a while the new plan becomes routine and even last night Talia "put herself to bed" without us setting up a new reward. She woke up once though and only needed me for a few minutes but still, I would like for her to sleep through the night!

Alex, on the other hand, decided to sleep through the night TWO nights in a row. The EXACT SAME TWO NIGHTS that Talia started waking up! Ron wanted to know if they have a telepathic conversation before bed-- "I'll sleep through the night tonight, so you need to wake up, ok?" Then Alex got a little bit sick and he has been waking up about 6-10 times per night for the last few nights. Last night he got up about 8 times and Talia got up once. Can you say TIRED?!?!?
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vintage Craft Book

Got this at the thrift store. It's from the 70's. I love the colors, the projects, the hard-to-follow pattern directions. The most interesting thing is how many easy-to-buy, everyday objects are featured-- make napkin rings out of toilet paper rolls and felt! It seemed like the point of this book was to save money by making your own items. I mean, nowadays you would make them out of something much more durable, like PVC pipe. Or buy them. I feel like now people craft more out of a sense of art or excitement or recycling. I would make napkin rings because I wanted something one-of-a-kind, not because I needed to save money. Maybe it's that you can get napkin rings at Target or Walmart or Ikea for really cheap. Or that people rarely use napkin rings-- I mean, what are they for? Even the homemade game seems like it would take so much time that there would be no cost-benefit to it. I would make a homemade game because I have a fantastic idea or I want to teach my kids something or get them involved on the process. The materials and time to make what looks like Parcheesi (is that it?) would never be worth the $10 it probably costs to get it at the store. But on almost every page the book talks about saving money. Has life changed so much in 25 years?
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Organized Craft Room

I've seen people post pictures of their craft rooms and they are sunlit rooms of pure oasis. Not quite what I've got going on here but... this is damn organized for me. I finally realized that finishing this room with walls and lights was not going to be happening any time soon so I finally bought shelves and really moved in. I had to import lights (there are no outlets in this room...?) and thread an extension cord from the finished part of the basement but this is working pretty well for me. These pictures were taken in January and it pretty much still looks like this. Interestingly enough, the MOST fabric I have is in those little bins on the bottom of the left-most shelf. It's crammed in there, organized by past and future projects. Those bins are HEAVY!
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