Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ice Cream Week--Mint Chocolate Chip

  Oh my goodness, my doctor and scale may disagree, but I think one week a month should be ice cream week!!  This has been so fun so far and SOOOO delicious!!  Think of all the fall flavors and then into winter...yum!!

   Today we decided to go with mint chocolate chip.  It's probably my favorite flavor of ice cream and apparently Oren's too, because he's the one who asked for it and then suggested it each day.  Today's recipe is from none other than Mr. Isaac Mizrahi, and can I just go on a little bit of a tangent and say I love him.  Oh, it's my blog, then yes, I will.  I absolutely love it when he comes on Martha Stewart's show.  He's so funny and kind and he sells his clothing at Target which makes him accessible to me as $50 for a pair of jeans is EXPENSIVE to this cheap frugal girl!  He always makes me smile, so when I searched for MCC recipes and his happened to show up on Epicurious.com, I was sold.  Plus it had GREAT reviews and it used actual mint instead of just extract.  

   This was our first recipe of the week that involved eggs to make a custard.  Custard-based ice creams aren't hard, they're just harder than scalding some milk and calling it done.  Yesterday's chocolate recipe was basically the same, it just used cornstarch instead of egg yolks to thicken.  You do have to constantly stir so you don't scramble your eggs, but it's not hard by any stretch of the imagination.  The only other thing about this recipe is that it needs to chill in the fridge for 6 hours to overnight before you put it in the machine.  So it's going to take a little longer than some of our other recipes too...no worries.  We put it on this morning and are enjoying it tonight.

   Here's the recipe, courtesy of epicurious.com
Isaac Mizrahi's Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 Quarts

6     large   egg yolks
  • 3/4  cup     sugar
  • 2     cups    whole milk  (again, I used mostly 2% and some half and half)
  • 2     cups    fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1     cup      heavy cream
  • 3     drops   green food coloring  (Normally I would leave this out, but Emma wanted it a little green, so we added 2 small drops...just green enough!)
  • 4     ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped  
  • 4     ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped  (And y'all know I just threw some chocolate chips in here instead of measuring anything out!)

In large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar.

In heavy medium saucepan over moderately low heat, stir together milk, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and mint. Heat until steaming but not boiling, then remove from heat.

Ladle about 1/2 cup hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent eggs from cooking, then slowly stir the egg mixture back into the hot milk, whisking constantly. Place over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat back of spoon (finger drawn across spoon will leave clear path), 5 to 6 minutes total (do not let boil or custard will curdle). Strain through fine-mesh sieve into large bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids. Whisk in heavy cream and food coloring. Cover and chill until cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.** See note below**

Process custard in ice cream maker, adding chopped chocolate during last minute of churning. Transfer to airtight container and freeze until hard, about 3 hours.
**I actually chose to add my cream with the mint still in and left it steeping until I was ready to pour it in the mixer before straining out the mint.  After tasting, I probably should have taken it out a little sooner as it has a strong herb-y flavor to the mint as opposed to the smooth, sweet flavor we're used to.  It's not bad by any means, just different than usual.  I will admit that my mint came from my garden and some it was a little hardy (meaning had been there for awhile) so that could have contributed too.

No pictures tonight as it isn't set up yet, we enjoyed a bowlful of it very, very soft.  Instead, I have a sneak peek at Emma's birthday pictures.  My friend, Amanda took them last night and put up a few today to enjoy...I sure do love this girl a whole lot...


Oh my goodness...she's got the cutest chicken legs ever, right??


Possibly my favorite of the whole shoot...I can't stop looking at this picture!!!


Man, I really love that girl.  I can't believe she's mine sometimes!  Until tomorrow friends, have a good night and enjoy something yummy!!  We're making peach tomorrow.  I may be the only one who eats it...but that's just more for me!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ice Cream Week--Strawberry and Chocolate-Peanut Butter

  To start off ice cream week, we went with simple but delicious Strawberry ice cream...4 quarts of it.  MMMMMMMMMM!!!!!  We got quart-sized plastic freezer jars ahead of time so that we could more easily store (and share) all of the ice cream we're making.  So, to two of the quarts we added chocolate chips (it was supposed to be chocolate chunks but I forgot to buy some and didn't feel like chopping some up...chips work just fine!!).  That was Chris' suggestion.  To one quart we added sprinkles because Emma wanted to make some "Pink Princess" ice cream and we figured that was as close as we were going to get.  We left the last quart plain.  


  The kids thought it was so fun.  I am letting them do as much as they can to make it, until they get bored and want to go do something else.  Emma couldn't believe I gave her the job of scalding the milk yesterday.  "I'm supposed to just stand here and stir????"  I told her that was a very important job that could make or break the recipe and I was trusting her to be careful by the stove.  She was not impressed.  ;)


  Oren helped me measure out the other ingredients and turn on the food processor to puree the strawberries. They both helped me add it to the machine and layer the ice and salt.  And we all helped eat it.  I felt a little like the "Little Red Hen" as they crowded around my final product...


  For the strawberry, I used a recipe out of our user's manual that came with the machine.  It's SUPER easy and the result is absolutely delicious.  Unbeatable.


Strawberry Ice Cream
  from Rival Ice Cream Maker User Manual
For 4 qts  (I have the ratios for other amounts if you're interested)
     2         c.    milk
     1 3/4   c.    sugar
     1/2      tsp.  salt 
      2         c.     half and half
     1         Tbs. vanilla extract
     4         c.     whipping cream
     4         c.     pureed strawberries (I just used 2 frozen sliced strawberry containers...no idea how much that is since I threw the packages away, sorry!!)


Scald milk until bubbles form around edge.  Remove from heat.  Add sugar and salt.  Stir until dissolved.  Stir in half and half, vanilla and whipping cream.  Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Add pureed strawberries.  (I added them before I chilled it because I had it all ready...don't think it matters two bits either way.)  Freeze as directed.  


See what I mean...EASY!!!
Two bowls of strawberry-chocolate chunk...I was going to get all bloggy perfect and "style" my food, but the kids just wanted to eat it and I didn't blame them.  Sorry this picture doesn't do the ice cream justice!


  Today our flavor was Chocolate-Peanut Butter.  Oh my goodness...that's all I can say.  I am not a huge choc-pb fan.  I mean I will eat a Reeses peanut butter cup if it's laying around, but it's by no means my favorite or what I would ever gravitate too.  But that may have changed with today's creation.  I searched for recipes last night and found this one that looked good.  And boy was I right!  Joy described this ice cream perfectly.  And it was a perfect segue from a scalded milk recipe to an egg custard since it is cooked on the stovetop, but uses cornstarch instead of egg yolks.  It was easy (just a little more time consuming) and tastes delicious.  I will say the peanut butter ribbon threw me for a loop...I've got no peanut butter ribbon in mine, it's all just mixed together, but whatever...



Joy's Double Chocolate peanut Butter Ice Cream
   from Joythebaker.com
Makes ~1 quart  (I doubled it.)
2 1/2 c.   whole milk  (I didn't have whole milk so used mostly 2% and a little half and half)
1       c.   sugar
1/3    c.   unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
3       Tbs cornstarch  (I was out of cornstarch...used 2 T. of wondra for each T. of cornstarch)
1/2     c.   heavy cream
3/4     c.   semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2     c.   smooth salted peanut butter 


   In a sauce pan over medium heat, stir together 2 cups whole milk, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Heat until the milk start to steam, but before it starts to boil.
   In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup of whole milk and the cornstarch. Stir until no lumps remain.
   Add the cornstarch mixture to the heated milk and chocolate mixture and bring to a low boil. Boil until thickened. The mixture will look the consistency of chocolate pudding. Remove from flame.
   In a small sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Once boiling, remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir the cream and chocolate mixture until incorporated.
   Stir the cream and chocolate mixture into the cooling chocolate ice cream base. Place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap or a lid, and put in the fridge until cool.
   Once cool, follow the manufacturers instructions on the ice cream maker to churn ice cream. Once the mixture has chilled and thickened in the ice cream maker, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of peanut butter. Don’t over mix. You want a nice ribbon of peanut butter running through the ice cream.
   Transfer the ice cream into a freezer safe container and fold in the remaining 1/4 cup of peanut butter. Cover and freeze until solid.

And I'm sorry but I have no picture of this because we had Emma's birthday portraits tonight and by the time we got home we had time for a quick bowl before bed...and a delicious bowl at that.  I'll post yummy pictures tomorrow I promise!

If you make any yummy ice cream, either using or our recipes or one of your favorites, let me know.  Tomorrow is going to be mint chocolate chip using mint from our garden...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Munchies--Ice Cream Week

One of the things I wanted to do this summer with the kids was make ice cream in our old fashioned ice cream maker.  While I would love to have one of those small ones that makes a quart or two and sits on your counter, we have the bucket that you fill with ice and rock salt.  At least it does plug in and we don’t have to churn it.  ;)

  But we couldn’t decide on just one flavor of ice cream to make, and honestly, what fun is one flavor?  So we decided to have ice cream week.  Each day this week (that we feel like it) we’re going to make a different flavor of ice cream.  We made a list of all the ideas we could think of, and I mean not just vanilla or strawberry, but like flavor combination ideas, and the list was like 15 kinds long.  Of course, some of those are Emma and Oren’s suggestions that will not be making the cut...candy shop ice cream (meaning throwing in every kind of candy we can think of might sound good, but no thank you...)  

  Today we decided to start with strawberry ice cream with chocolate chunks.  I tried to convince them to be adventurous with adding mint or basil or something else, but chocolate chunks in their strawberry was adventurous as my crew gets apparently.  I’ll post pictures tomorrow with the results and keep you posted on other recipes we try this week…Any suggestions?
Mmmmm....can't wait!  photo courtesy of eatingoutloud.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's Done... What do you think?


Alright, I finished up the dress last night. And I'm glad I made a muslin first. Maybe it's just that I've gotten spoiled using tutorials and patterns from other bloggers. I think that ladies that sew make tutorials and patterns with other home sewers in mind. They take the time and space in their pattern to really explain each step, often with great photos for visual learners. They're also often kind enough to include an email address if you have questions or are unsure about a step in the design.

Bs1106_bu_bardot_2_244_large
Here is the original version...Burda 06/2011 Twisted bubble dress with elastic belt
Whereas the big pattern companies...not so much. I have read in the past that Burda patterns are often a little vague. A little vague does not even begin to describe the instructions for this dress. Without giving the pattern away since they are selling it, here are the directions for attaching the lining to the outer shell.
   Turn in lower edges of dress and lining. Pin edges together with one straight pin, so that right side seam of dress meets left side front seam of lining. Reach through opening in side seam, between outer fabric and lining, and pull out lower edges of dress. Remove the pin but keep hold of the edges. Stitch edges together, right sides facing. Push hem edge to inside again and pull down. Sew opening in lining seam closed.

Remember now that the outer shell of the dress is about 2x as big as the lining too. They never even once mention to gather or bunch up all that fabric to get it all matched up. Now after trying that multiple times with only a mess...I gave up, turned on a DVRed show of Martha's Sewing Room on how to attach a dress to the lining and voila...I had it done in 5 minutes. And that's where pictures made all the difference. I understood what Burda was saying, but seeing it done made it so much easier to make my hands do the same thing.

So here it is:


I definitely learned with this muslin. IF I make this pattern again, I will do a few things differently. Since I changed the lining to include only 2 pieces (front and back) instead of the 7 they had, I didn't have an exact spot to start my twisted hem and so went too far which is why it's so gathered up on the sides. I will make the twist a little less which I think will make the bottom not so poofy and maybe a little longer too. I will also tighten the top up quite a bit. I followed the measurements and used elastic that fit my chest, but by using such a small width of elastic (1/2 inch), I feel a little nervous that it might slide down even with such a big top keeping it up. :)


I'm not unhappy with this result at all. I actually kinda like it and am glad to have finished it. Any finished product is progress toward becoming a better seamstress. I learned about fitting myself and about pattern making. I think the color is great for summer and the length is daring without being risque.

Does anyone else really hate modeling?  I could photograph Emma all day, but take 2 pics of me and I want to be done!
So here are my questions for you, great readers...What do you think? Tell me honestly, I need the advice. Chris said he thought I could definitely wear this version at the beach but anywhere else would look out of place. Emma said she liked the back better than the front... SHOULD I make it again? If I do...any fabric advice? SHOULD I wear this one out in public? And should I belt it or not? The pattern said to include a belt, but with it so short and me being quite bigger on top than the 2 models, I don't know...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More Photo Fun

Well, the dress and I are working out our differences, I may or may not get it finished tonight, but I am close.  So, for now, here are my photo fun challenge entries:

June 17--Bokeh
  According to wikipedia:  in photography, bokeh is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light. ... Blah, blah, blah...to me it means keeping one thing in the front of the picture in focus while blurring out as much of the background as possible.  For my entry I used this picture of one of my roses.  This photo is straight out of the camera.  I didn't edit at all! And I'm pretty proud of that.  I love my camera!

June 17--Bokeh



June 18--Eyes
 Have you ever visited Katy's blog at No Big Dill?  (completely awesome by the way, and you should definitely follow her if you don't!!)  Her side bar is filled with the eyes of each of her 5, yes, I said 5 girls.  I think it's such a cute way to think of your children and how different they are. But, surprisingly, while I usually think my two don't look alike, some of their expressions, just in the eyes, were so similar.  I ended up going with this shot of Emma...  I love it because she still looks so young in it and it's less and less that I see that from her!


June 18--Eyes



June 19--Summertime
  Just like childhood, this topic was so vague and "easy" it seemed hard to me.  So many of the other topics this month cover summertime to me, and I didn't want to copy anything I'd already done or take away from something left on the list.  In the end, I went with my alarm clock which may seem strange but it's because we don't use it in the summer.  We wake up when our rooms are light enough to naturally wake us up and start our day of fun.
June 19--Summertime



June 20--Water
  Just a shot of the pool, but I like it.


June 20--Water



June 21--Macro (up close)
   Here's a shot of one of my zinnias up close.  They are by far my favorite summer flower!  Possible my favorite altogether.  I love to plant a ton of them and bring them in all summer long in arrangements!


June 21--Macro

So there you go.  My photo shots from this week.  I've only got 9 left which seems wierd since June will then be over and that's a little sad.  So let's make the most of it and keep playing, huh?


I'm off to wrestle with, I mean hem my bubble dress.  Pictures tomorrow one way or the other.  Let's hope for a fashion photo shoot and not a SEWING FAIL!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I will not give up or "My Seam Ripper and I get reacquainted..."

So I downloaded this super cute summer dress from Burda late last week.  I mean, look...how cute is this??

Bs1106_bu_bardot_2_244_large
She totally looks just like me right?  Can't you just see me going to Walmart in that hat??  I wish!
Based on the real lack of direction in the pattern I decided to make a muslin version first.  For those that don't sew much, or sew clothing, making a muslin means making the pattern in a fabric that you are not worried about losing, often actual muslin, but it can be any fabric.  That way you can test the pattern and fine tune it to make sure that when you make the dress with your fashion fabric you're ensured a good fit.

I chose to use a curtain I'd bought at Walmart for a project in Emma's room and didn't need. I figured it was a lot of fabric at a great price and I wasn't out much if it came out bad.  I also used an old white sheet for the lining.  I got it all cut out and went for it this morning...

Until it came time to sew up the lining.  If you've never used Burda patterns, they don't come with a seam allowance, you have to add your own.  I don't know why since you need it, but they don't.  I chose to omit the SA (seam allowance) here because I cut it on a larger size than I actually am.  Plus the dress is very blousy and I didn't want to end up with it overly large.  MISTAKE.  Cutting with no SA for the outer was fine, but the lining--Oh my goodness...first off, the lining had a center front, 2 side pieces, 2 side back pieces and 2 back pieces.  What the heck for???  So by not including the SA I lost like 3 inches and I don't know who made that pattern to start with, but there wasn't room even with 3 inches added in!  But, I just added an additional panel and moved on...
Bs1106_mg_2855_large
Another view of the dress from Burda...

But then, to attach the 2 layers, they had me gather the outer shell and then baste the lining to it.  Once that was basted I was to sew the lining to the SA to create a casing for some elastic (which I could never find mentioned what size or how much...I based it on my chest).  So, I basted, realized that it wasn't as even as I'd like, ripped it out, basted again, questioned their judgement on this SA casing thing and kept going only to fight the elastic in this small space.  I tried it on...it looked okay, but some of the basted seam was already coming undone.

So, during the Gator baseball game tonight I had a nice long visit with my seam ripper.  He and I haven't hung out much lately, but I think he missed me, and obviously I can't do a project without him.  I got the lining completely separated from the outer shell and I called it quits for the night.

I am determined to beat this pattern.  I mean, this dress has Kelli written all over it. :)  And who doesn't want to go to town in a curtain?  It's so 21st century Scarlet O'Hara!  I'm starting over in the morning by cutting a new lining with only a front and back piece based on my measurements and not just pieces of paper.  I'm going to sew the shell and lining together with a larger SA at the top.  That way I can make a casing for the elastic that will look nice and hold the dress up.  (Key issues if you ask me.)

And as for the bubble hem...well the directions are a little iffy there too, so I'm going to read them well and then go with what I know.  Hopefully between the two, I can get it right!  ;)

I am hoping for pictures tomorrow.  Wish me luck!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

More Photo Fun

**Fellow bloggers, have you ever written a post, previewed it, got it all ready and then forgot to press Publish Post?  Because I would feel better if I wasn't alone since I wrote this all up yesterday...Oops!**

I didn't realize I hadn't updated my photo fun entries over here in a week!  Oops...
I am really enjoying this challenge as it's forcing me to think about my subject and how my camera can best capture it.  I rarely use auto and am working on becoming a photographer as opposed to a picture-taker, but have a LOOONNNNNGGGG way to go!

Here's my last 7 entries:
Day 10:  Animal
  We've had our cat Punkin for 8 years.  A few years back she ran into something and it cost her an eye.  But it hasn't slowed her down at all...she's still bringing us treats.  Who doesn't love part of a chewed up lizard, squirrel, rat, frog, etc on their welcome mat in the morning?  Notice in this picture she's not big on being "styled" by my photo assistant, Oren.

June 10--Animal


Day 11:  Silhouette
  I realize this is not a real silhouette with his profile darkened, but it was right before bed and I was tired....No excuses.  Chris says it looks like a mug shot.  :(

June 11--Silhouette


Day 12:  Sun Flare
  I had to read up on how to do this on purpose other than just shooting a tree with the sun in the shot...I found some really great info on a photographer's website, gotta love those willing to share their knoweldge.  Thank you, bloggers!  Had my camera battery not run out, I could have kept shooting, but for a first attempt, I was proud of this shot.

June 12--Sun Flare


Day 13:  Reminds you of childhood
  This prompt was a little too vague for me...it was so easy it became difficult if you know what I mean.  I finally settled on a root beer float, or the makings for one since it was like 10 in the morning!  I set it up on a white tee shirt in front of my kitchen window.  I taped wax paper to the window to give that white background look without a light box!  Again, learned this tip somewhere on the web a while back!

June 13--Childhood reminder


Day 14:  Someone you love
Simple enough although Chris will hate it.  I tried to get one of him in his reading glasses...he said no.  Too bad 'cause he looks Super Smart & Sexy in them!

June 14--Someone I love


Day 15:  Action
  Can you see where we spend most of our summer??  Or what Emma's favorite bathing suit is this year??  Anyway, I thought about playing around with shutter speed and trying to blur this one, but I need some more practice with that...apparently I only get good results with that on accident.  ;)

June 15--Action


Day 16:  Mason Jar
  And while I would have loved to photograph a line of mason jars filled with delicious (seedless) blackberry jam the lack of rain we had for like 2 months dried them all out and we got none this year.  So we'll be eating store bought jam till next summer...
  But I like this too.  It's my centerpiece decoration in the pool enclosure....

June 16--Mason jars

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Birthday Celebration

I did promise that I'd share pictures from Emma's birthday party...so 2 weeks later, here goes...

After much thought and discussion, Emma went with a Rainbow Fairies theme.  She is a voracious reader and has read through this series of books from Scholastic many, many times.  These books include magic, girl fun, and adventure...right up a 7-year-old's alley.  And, no licensed character plates and decorations allowing me to be imaginative with my decorations sounds great to me!
 
We did go to the website to download pictures of each fairy for the invitations and cupcake toppers, but other than that, we just went colorful!  When Emma was turning 2 or 3, I used scrapbook paper and ribbon I had on hand to make this Happy Birthday banner.  I put it up when any of us are having a birthday.  While it's usually inside, we hung it out by the pool since the colors are so bright and cheery.

Thanks, Dad for holding that up for me!  ;)
Last year, Emma had a polka-dot theme, so we bought some cardboard cake rounds and painted them with different colors of acrylic paint.  I got them out again this year and had the guys hang them with some invisible sewing thread (aka thin fishing line) and tape all around the covered part of our screen enclosure.


The dots that look white or brown in these pictures are just turned in the breeze.  We only painted one side last year!  We also hung 3 Chinese lanterns for decoration too.
For a centerpiece, I laid out some rainbow fabric I've had forever and put out a cut glass bowl filled with gum balls and a rectangular vase filled with skittles and rainbow lollipops my sister picked up for me.  We cut some of our beautiful hydrangeas from the yard and put them out too.  I was going to tie the glasses together with some pretty ribbon but never quite got that far...oh well, they still looked great.



 We just served snacks and drinks since it was in the middle of the afternoon, so I got pint-sized drinks for the kids.  We got these cute little orange soda cans and junior sized Sprites and Cokes.  I threw them all in a big metal drink container.  We put it down on a low shelf so the kids could help themselves.
The kids and parents LOVED the small drinks!

 After having a few swimming parties, I've decided "easy to eat" is the way to go since the kids hate getting out to eat at all.  Trying to dry off, get a plate of cake and ice cream and find somewhere to sit is always a problem, so this year we went for cupcakes and individual ice creams from Bluebell.  When asked, Emma decided she wanted peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes.  Since not everyone is as big a fan of peanut butter as my girl, I made a batch of peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate icing (just use a butter cake mix and use peanut butter instead of butter, or make it from scratch same way) and a batch of chocolate cupcakes with white icing.  We covered the tops with sprinkles to give them a colorful look and then inserted the cake toppers we'd made based on the rainbow fairies.

To make these little toppers I downloaded a coloring sheet of each fairy from the web site and then copied the part of each sheet that featured only the fairy.  Then in my photo editing software I made a circle and placed  tiny circles all around the perimeter of it (this was the most tedious step).  Once the circle design was done, I just copied each fairy into the middle and made it fit and centered it.  Then I colored the circle ring to match and saved it.  I made one for each fairy.  Now the fairies were black and white, so I had Emma color them in when we were all done printing and cutting.  Then I also made some circles with Emma or a 7 on them for the back of each topper.  Once these were made, I opened each image in my Silhouette software and inserted them into a scallop shape and had the machine cut each out.  Then I just sandwiched a colored toothpick between a fairy and either an Emma or 7 and done.  It was almost harder to write this all out then just do it.  I can make a tutorial if anyone is ever interested...



My sister, being the sweet and kind girl that she is, made little fairy wands for each child to take home.  Of course, I told the boys that they could just call it a cookie on a stick if they were too "manly" for fairy wands!  You should have seen their faces light up when they saw them!  She posted the recipe and steps on her blog if you want to check it out.


I gave the kids their cookie wands as they left in their goodie bag.  How cute are these??  Target.  Yep, they've got a big section now with lots of goodie bag stuff.  I am the kind of Mom who despises goodie bags because I really do not need more candy and made-in-China rubber and plastic toys in my house.  But, how can you not give them out?  So our goodie bags are always small and thoughtful.  Each bag had 1 pack of skittles and starburst (so they could taste the rainbow...), some colorful bracelets, a noise maker (like the kind you blow at parties and the paper unrolls) and one or two other knick knacks.


Everyone had a really great time.  We had about 15 kids aged 4-10 swimming, laughing, jumping and hollering at our house and I can't think of a better way to ring in turning 7.  My sweet girl had a great time and all in all, it was a very Happy Birthday!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

School's Out for Summer

   And finally, the day has come.  My baby is now a kindergartner (not sure how that happened) and my oldest is a second grader.  Well, they will be in August anyway.  But, for now, we are packing up the backpacks and lunch boxes and getting ready for some summer fun.  And in honor of summer vacation, Oren got a haircut.  He has been wanting a mohawk all year because some friends of his at school have one.  We told him he had to wait till summertime...so this afternoon:



 
  I'm on the fence about it.  It's not my favorite look for him, but he LOVES it and summer is all about taking it easy and enjoying life, so we'll see how long it lasts...

 I've got big plans for this summer, as in lots of fun, but most certainly taking it easy.  Emma and Oren came down with sinus infections this week...yes, had to miss a day of school the last week and get tardy slips another because they're so run down and having trouble getting going in the mornings.  I see a lot of days spent in the pool, a week at the beach (can't wait Mom!!), some rainy afternoon movie watching, trips to the coast for seafood, and lots of opportunities to eat yummy foods and play together as a family.

   I also see time to get my sewing on.  I've got so many projects floating around in my head I'm making a list of them all so I can prioritize what I really want to do first.  Well, I SHOULD empty out my WIP basket first and get those projects finished, but where's the fun in that?  So, while not prioritized yet, I see at least 1 dress, some skirts, possible a romper for both Emma and me, a beach blanket quilt, a new quilt for Oren's bed and MAYBE a few WIP finishes from the basket...  I should be busy if nothing else, just keeping up with my dreams of sewing ideas!

   And on a completely different note, here are my latests Photo Fun entries:
(don't forget to check out the flickr group for all of the fun from everyone!)

Day 5 was breakfast today...this is Chris' plate, I only had one egg, but had already cut into mine when he brought his out all ready for me to photograph!  He spoils us like that for breakfast on the weekends.

Day 6 was books.  I had lots of good ideas:  a stack of my favorite series like Harry Potter or the Outlander series.  Chris suggested the TOC in the bible with all of the books listed.  But in the end it was 10 p.m. and I hadn't taken anything yet, so I took a picture of the latest book I'd read.  I read it in one day.  It was the day the kids stayed home sick and I wasn't feeling so hot myself so I laid around and read a lot...  Great book by the way, better than the movie.  And yes, I love children's literature.


Day 7 was a High Angle Shot.  Embarrassingly enough I had to find out what this meant because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be at a high angle or what I was shooting.  Oren was just sure I should take a picture of the roof of the house, because it is certainly high.  When I told him I had to be at a high angle, he logically said that I should get on the roof of the house to take the picture then.  I was going to get out in the kids play fort and have them lay on a blanket in the yard like they were watching clouds and make this magical shot that was like the perfect idea of summer...but instead I took the kids to the doctor and when we finally got home it started raining...  So, here's my entry.  I was happy with it though.  Sometimes your second option isn't so bad either...


Day 8 was a sunset.  I like this one.  We have so many pine trees we can't see the sunset usually, so we walked down to the road and I took these.  This is pretty much straight out of the camera with a slight adjustment for the light in the foreground.  Its moments like this that make me stop and remember how much God loves us.  What a beautiful way to end each day.


Today's photo is fresh fruit.  For some reason, I felt uninspired...probably running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to finish up teacher gifts, etc...  So, here's my least favorite picture of the series.  I call it strawberries in a colander...  I thought it would be really cool to take a picture of watermelons still on the vine in the fields as it's watermelon season here and they're everywhere, but I didn't have time or desire to drive into anybody's field today to bust out my camera and take a picture of their fruits.  Oh well...



 So here's to summer...may we all enjoy each day and remember that it's only a season.  Make each day special in some way or another!  And let me know what you plan on doing this summer to make it special...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

End of the school year gifts

Tomorrow is the last day of school for us and it's that time when we're showing our teachers again how much we appreciate all that they've done for my two favorite kids.

  Emma is absolutely in love with her teacher this year and says she wants to stay in first grade to stay with her.  We didn't know each other that well before this school year, but she has become a dear friend to me as well.  Chris decided she was "box-worthy."  In his spare time (haha, like a teacher and coach has much spare time), Chris loves woodworking and while he can build many things, he enjoys making boxes for people special to him or for special occasions.  Think of a box you might sit on your dresser to hold your valuables, but NOT a junk drawer.  He painstakingly plans out a box specific to the person he's building for taking into account their likes, dislikes, possible uses for said box and so on.  He decided on a large box for Mrs. P so that she could store jewelry or the like in it, but could one day pass it on to one of her sons or their wives.  They are Seminole Fans (we are most certainly not) so he went with a bloodwood and maple combination.  Bloodwood is a reddish wood and obviously maple is a light, creamy yellow color.  He then routed out a P and filled the hole with bloodwood shavings and epoxy mixed together.  I helped out by using my Silhouette to cut out the P he used as a template.  He had Emma write a message on the bottom of the box that he then sealed so her first grade handwriting will always be there.  Oren is always doing something down at the barn, so it was a full family affair to build this box for a wonderful woman.  I think it came out absolutely beautiful and Mrs. P did too!
This is the box.  The P is actually the same color as the outer box, but when the lid is closed it looks much darker.

Dinosaur not included...but Oren thought it was funny to throw it in there!  The inside has a removable tray.  The dino is standing in this tray.

This is the inside of the box without the removable tray.  Chris put flocking in the bottom to make it soft for whatever she'll keep in there.  He lined the inside of the box with the maple from the lid and added the dividers.

This is the removable tray.  Is he amazing or what?  Sorry, girls...he's all mine!  ;)

   Now Oren has 3 teachers since he's in Pre-K with a teacher and 2 aides.  And as much as we love them all, and we really do...3 boxes is a bit much.  But I wanted them to know they are appreciated too.  We got them gift cards to Cold Stone Creamery (which is in the big city about 45 minutes from here but what are you gonna do...).  Oren and I are about to make them some homemade bread and some bread dip mix like you get at Carrabbas.  But then I found this AWESOME website called Tagxedo.  Oh my goodness, if you have a thing for words as art then I have just effectively shot your whole day.  Go on, click over, but don't say I didn't warn you...It's like wordle but more awesome because you can continually play with the words, colors, layout, etc.  I made this little beauty for each of his teachers too and am going to frame it as part of their gift:


Well, actually not this exact one because I realized that door holder had been separated so it randomly said door and holder in separate places and that's a little wierd.  And, I don't know how to make it look exactly the same (or if that's even possible,) so it's a little different, but just as cool!

So tomorrow morning we'll pass out the gifts and spread the love because come 11:45...we're all free for the summer!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Domestic skills in a different realm

While I usually show my domestic greatness (haha, greatness!) with my sewing machine, this weekend, I'm using the kitchen.  A friend of mine has a large garden this year and had more corn than she had time to put up, so she offered some to us.  I figured I'd get enough for supper and a pint or two to put up.  Oh no, she had 2 buckets full when we got there and Oren and I filled another.  She also passed on a couple pounds worth of tomatoes, some eggplant, squash and cucumbers.  THANKS, Christie!!!

So we all shucked corn yesterday afternoon until Emma found a worm or two in them and she was done.  Screeching and hollering and in the house, done.  Wish I had a picture of that...  We had corn on the cob for supper last night and it was so delicious!  Then I put up the rest.  Chris used to love when his Mom would put up  whole ears so he could just get one out and eat it for a snack sometimes, so I froze 20 ears and cut the rest.  I ended up with 10 1/2 pints!  I'll take that any day.  Now in October or January we can still have that great fresh from the garden flavor.

corn1


corn2


This afternoon I took the tomatoes and stewed them down with some basil from my garden and am contemplating vegetable lasagna for supper...  but I could just sit down with some fried eggplant too, so we'll see.

I don't can and freeze like I should to take advantage of summer produce, but I like doing it.  I like knowing skills that have lasted families for generations are being preserved (haha, no pun intended) and where the food my family is eating was grown.  We've got blackberries ready to pick and I'll be making some jam in the next week or so.  Does anyone else love the sight of opening their freezer or pantry and seeing jars of homemade goodness rather than boxes of fruit snacks and frozen pizzas??

frozen
This is pumpkin, blackberry sorbet (a fancy way of saying mashed blackberries and sugar!!) and corn I've put up.  I'm running way low on blackberries.  Good thing they're ready to pick!

And here are my latest entries for the 30 Day Photo Fun Challenge.  I was a day late on the hands challenge because I was too busy being Mama.  Oren had pre-k graduation and Emma had her end-of-the-year party on Friday.  But I'm still happy with the result.  Today's challenge of clouds seemed easy enough till I realized it is hotter than blue blazes outside and dry as can be.  The sky is a light blue with only sad wispy little clouds.  I thought about waiting and hoping for rain or a good sunset, but didn't figure I should push my luck!  :)  Tomorrow's challenge is breakfast...what can I convince Chris to make???

June3--hands


June4--Clouds