Sunday, December 28, 2014

Crafts I Tried This Season

This was a big year for myself and my kids. I came to the heart-wrenching realization that my children were growing up; they were suddenly aware of the holidays and what they meant.  But I started to think...DO they know what they mean? Have you ever felt that way about your children as they grow up before your eyes? 

I decided I needed to start making more of an effort to share with my children what holidays mean to us; why we celebrate, what to consider.  The importance of being grateful and giving and supporting others.  I chose two specific ways to do this...

#1: A month of being thankful. 

For the month of November, I had each child (really only my oldest as the younger one still can't write or grasp the 'thankful' concept) write on a leaf what they are thankful for.  It could be something as frivolous as getting a cookie in their lunch box that day, or something deeper like the wonderful friends they have. Whatever it was, it made them start thinking about being grateful for all we have.  

I was pleasantly surprised by what they came up with. Grateful for their sister/brother, grateful for the fun toys they are lucky to have, grateful for their parents and grandparents. It was awesome, and it sparked other conversations during other times of the day; comparing with cousins all of the things they are grateful for. It was heart-warming to me when my son reminded me one night, " Mom, we need to do our thankful leaves". Awesome! Yes, there were several days I forgot or got distracted, but he worked hard to keep me in check. 

#2: A 25 day countdown chain to Christmas. 

The month of December is filled with excitement for children. Last year my son became acutely aware of Christmas and was asking every day if it was here yet. I had a couple people suggest a countdown chain, so I put one together. I wrote the numbers for the countdown on each link and simply stapled them. I should have made them a little thinner, but other than that this worked perfectly!

It had a bunch of unintended lessons in it, too. My son was able to practice his scissor handling, including cutting each link into a bazillion little pieces and various shapes I drew on them. He also practiced his numbers and the concept of counting down ('if this says 13, how many days are left? ...12!). It was almost a little sad for me when we got to the end because he had so much fun with it. 

Something else I tried this year was the 12 nights of books. This was a modified approach to a pin someone showed me. I got 12 books for each child, wrapped them, numbered them and put them under the tree. At first I didn't know if it was really worth it, but as the evenings past my husband pointed out how much the kids look forward to their books each night and how fun it is to open them and then sit on the couch together to read them. They were so excited about those books each night, and about sitting together to read them. It was wonderful! I'm wondering if I can recycle some of the Christmas stories for next year to supplement, otherwise this will become a really expensive tradition.  

I do want to try all of these again next year, with modifications for improvement of course. I felt like I was helping my children understand the idea of being grateful and thankful for all we have and the importance of family and togetherness. Next year I also hope to find more things they can do give back, which is still a tough concept for them. We tried a little this year, but maybe it will work better next year. Wonderful times, and there's always room for improvement. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Baby R's Quilt

Last April when I found out my sister was expecting, I was overjoyed! So excited for her and the new adventure she was entering with #2. My mind started racing...what type of quilt should I make? My sister is really into batiks, which is what I did for her first, but this one felt different.  Pattern, or no pattern? Scrappy or coordinated fabrics?
Fortunately, my sister started building a registry and picking paints and I got some wonderful clues and ideas. I was browsing Green Fairy Quilts and saw a fat quarter pack called Bartholomeow's Reef and knew it was the one. It called to me and I had to do it.

I wanted to do something with sailboats to stick with the theme of ocean and came up with a sailboat pattern of my own. I accidentally completed a whole baby quilt, my Sailboat Quilt, while practicing this block, which I also love, love!

Once I had my blocks put together, I felt like they needed to be wonky, so I twisted them with scraps from the collection. The last thing to complete was the sashing and border.  The blocks had made the quilt a nice baby size already, and the blocks were so busy that I decided to do something simply. I found this wonderful solid at the LQS Cactus Quilt Shop and was so happy with how well it pulled it all together and completed the quilt.

For the quilting, I struggled with stitching over the sailboats (I usually do for some reason) so I opted to stitch waves and swirls around the blocks allowing the boats to pop a little. I even went in and stitched a quarter inch in around the boats and didn't like it so I picked it out and declared it done.

I ordered the backing to match rather than piecing something together. Now I have enough leftovers I could make a whole new quilt. Yay!  I loved this one so much it was hard to let it go. I hope my sisters little boy feels the same way.

Finally, I finished the quilt with the solid to match the sashing and borders, which has a great contrast on the back. I hand-stitched the binding, and added a personalized label to this one for them.

This was an original from start to finish, and I love how it all came together.  It was like it was on purpose by accident.  I kind of went scrappy, but with coordinated fabrics. It was a pattern, just my own. Works for me. I hope they love it as much as I do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dolly Needs Pajamas

Last year my daughter received an Our Generation doll from her cousins, Aunt and Uncle. Just recently, she has become quite fascinated with this doll and we've been playing dress-up a lot lately. I've noticed she's more cooperative herself when she see's her dolly doing it.

Now, I always said I wouldn't make doll clothes; too many small pieces and tight corners, not to mention I will have to work with ...gulp... a pattern! But they always say you'll do anything for your children and I was ready to do anything to get her excited about getting dressed for bed.

I have been trying to figure out what to do with the fleece scraps I have, so here's yet another great project for them. I knew I needed to make patterns for this, so I used one of the other outfits she had to create simple patterns for the top and bottom. Fleece was also nice because it's stretchy, making it easier to get a good fit, at least for my first try.

I started with the top, cutting out the body and the sleeves and sewing them together. I used velcro to close the back. On to the pants; it was pretty straight forward until I got to the closure part. I had to do a little re-sewing to figure that part out.

I was worried there might be stretch at the sleeves and legs, so I decided to add a little flare and stitch an embroidery stitch around all hems, rather than doing actual hems. I don't get to use those stitches a lot so it was pretty exciting!

The pants came out a little shorter than I would have liked, but it just gave me two more patterns.  Now I have "capri's" as well as "pants" and I have "3/4 sleeves" and "full sleeves". I am actually looking forward to trying it again.

During the shoot, the models manager (my daughter) suggested we put the shirt on with the velcro seam up the front. I actually think I like it better, gives the outfit a little more interest.

Yes, I am ready to try doll clothes again.  Maybe with some of the quilting fabric scraps.  I'll have to keep playing with it. I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Can't wait to see what everyone's working.  Come on by!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Roll Up Pancakes

Okay, I promise I've been doing things. Maybe not as much as I would like given the time of year, but I have been working on things.

Right now is the time of year when I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Not because the weather is right to be inside (we've been having 70's and sunny outside for the most part and it's hard not to go outside and enjoy it) but because it's the time of year when family is visiting for various holidays and gifts are being made for the end of the school semester, etc.

I also have been working on some projects that I didn't want to share until after they've been delivered. One was my SIL's Second Quilt and the other is TBA soon. Suspense....

But, back to the kitchen... I have been playing with a recipe that, once again, I found on my fave food blog, Mel's Kitchen. I have made it a few times and it has become a recipe that my son requests again and again. It is great for breakfast, for leftovers re-heated the next morning, breakfast on-the-go, and for lunches rolled up with fruit. It is an amazing recipe! And I have not found one thing I would change about it.

It's packed with protein, it has a minimal amount of carbs, and it tastes great with just the smallest drizzle of syrup so you're not adding a ton of calories there. I encourage you all to visit Mel's blog and checkout this Roll Up Pancake recipe along with all of the other wonderful recipes she has on her site. I am posting it on my site simply because I want it in my recipe book that I've created on here. You must try this recipe!

Roll Up Pancakes

1 c cottage cheese
6 eggs
1/2 c flour (white or whole wheat)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs sugar

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour about 1/4 c batter into a well-heated, greased skillet and swirl it outward to create the larger, flat pancake.  8-inch will create smaller pancakes, 10-inch creates bigger ones. Allow to brown and set for a minute or so and then flip. It takes some practice to work with such a large, thin pancake, but you'll get the hang of it quickly. Flip and allow the second side to brown. Remove from the pan to a plate and continue with the rest of the batter until all of it is used.
Drizzle a small amount of syrup, jam, fruit, or bacon to the pancake and roll it up. Allow the leftovers to cool and place them in the refrigerator or freezer. Both work great.