Monday, June 30, 2008

Craft Happy

I have been sewing like crazy lately... and just doing crafts in general. I have been wanting to buy Anastasia a "baby" to somewhat prepare her for the reality coming October 3rd-ish (that is the official due date). Nick's parents bought her a really cute handmade doll cradle that came with a somewhat scary plastic doll. No one liked it... except Leia who enjoyed chewing it up. Despite the dolls ugly appearance, we found the concept of Leia eating a baby very disturbing so Nick finally tossed the doll. So I decided rather than buy her a doll, to make her one. I made one in the waldorf style out of a pair of children's tights using a tutorial for head shaping that I found here. She isn't truly waldorf as she isn't stuffed with wool (yet) and she has many slight imperfections but that is the beauty of handmade... oh and the fact that I spent no money making her. That is my new crafting goal... to use what I have (as I have more fabric than space to store it.)

Another craft I am working on is Isabel's new-used wardrobe. I have been dyeing Anastasia's old stained clothes with RIT dye and adding embellishments. There is a nice tutorial for dyeing and lining those newborn kimono shirts here. I like the idea of not buying anything new, yet transforming something old and yucky into something really adorable. Plus I can easily feminize something gender nuetral or even some of the adorable boyish items I picked up at a thrift store. Because quite honestly girls should be able to wear blue too. I also made this pencil case loosly using a pattern from my new book The Creative Family. I made it to fit some Crayola brand toddler pencils and added color-coordinated buttons for easy organizing. Anastasia loves it, and we took it to church where she took the pencils in and out of the case and colored a little. A lady was so impressed she came up to me and wanted me to make her one. So that is my job for today. I was SO flattered especially because she said it reminded her of something Haba would make. I LOVE Haba except that most of their items are made in China with a European-quality price.

My last few projects have been oriented toward our upcoming camping trip to the beach (and are not all pictured) in order to keep Anastasia busy on the 4-5 hour drive, in restaurants, etc. I made her this magnetic fish scene out of a dry-erase board with glued-on buttons, fish from a sea-tube I picked up at Target and foam shapes. I also made her a little tote bag with sea animals on it, some Magnets that fit in and on an altoid tin, I bought some ocean books and coloring books, made some toddler activity bags with mini-felt board and shapes, playdoh, mini-coloring books, sticky notebooks and gel pens, a playmobil surfer guy, and this cute little weblog mouse and sleeping bag.

Anastasia went to bed amazingly early on Saturday night and I spent 2 hours reading The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soul. (Check out her beautiful blog here.) I wanted to do a quick review on this book because it is a great book and a quick read. It is definately a beginner crafting book, as well as an inspirational read for long-time crafters. The author places a huge emphasis on non-material things and not buying toys but allowing space and resources for imaginitive play and creating. She seems very influenced by the waldorf-style of teaching/parenting and has very easy instructions for some neat projects. Some of my favorites are the pencil case I made, freezer paper stenciling, felt birthday crowns, and clothing reconstruction. I recommend this for anyone who wants some serious creative inspiration or any person who doesn't consider themself creative and would like to try their hand at crafting with their kids.

That is all the craftiness for now... more to come I am sure as pregnancy tends to leave me temporarily craft-happy in the best way. And crafts aren't my only insane weekness... baking and cooking have also been reaching new levels. I decided I don't like the price of sliced bread, so I decided to start making my own. I highly recommend this Rosemary Peasant Bread from Make and Takes. It is so easy and incredibly delicious. And these Ice Cream Cup Cakes from Joy the Baker will leave you speechless. I warn you... I think you gain a couple pounds just looking at her beautiful cupcakes! I used her soft chocolate cupcake recipe, devided it in quarters (for 2 dozen ice cream cupcakes) and baked them 12 minutes, added mint chocolate chip ice cream and frosting and popped in the freezer for an hour. TO DIE FOR.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Its a...............

We finally got our first ultrasound for baby number two. So I am officially announcing that we are going to have a.... *trumpets sound*ANOTHER BABY GIRL!!!! I have been thinking it was going to be a girl this past week... and now I am really happy that Anastasia will have a little sister!!! I always wanted a sister as a kid! I think it actually makes this much easier to some extent... atleast for now. :) And I get more use out of Anastasia's ADORABLE wardrobe!!!!
The name contest: If you haven't already been informed, you are welcome to join in... by guessing what we will name her (first name only). We have had the name picked out since before Anastasia was born... and the only hint you get is that it is of Spanish descent. First correct guesser gets none other than a jar of my handmade cherry jam (even if I have to ship it!) So guess away my blog readers!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Run Around

Last week was terribly busy! I feel like I just ran around all week! This week is proving a bit more sane (thus far) with our only commitment being our first ultrasound on Thursday! I am excited because we have decided to find out if it will be a boy or girl (if they can even tell). I kept thinking it was a boy... but now I keep having dreams that it ends up being a girl... so I have been harboring thoughts of another cute little girl to dress in pretty little girly clothes and the sisterhood the two girls would share that I always wanted as a kid. Either way, I am almost 26 weeks and VERY excited! I can imagine life with a baby... but trying to imagine baby + toddler is beyond me.

I took Anastasia to toddler story time last week at the library. She loved it! Aparently a group of mom's with toddlers meets afterwards at the park so we might check that out this week. I have also been trying little activities with her. I made her some magnets by glueing magnets to the back of buttons. She loved playing with them. We also dyed vanilla pudding different colors and let her go to town. I let her play in a plastic tub of water with boats I made out of plastic cups, playdough and a straw holding a paper flag. She tore them apart and just enjoyed the water. I also got a bunch of jars, bottles and lids and she spent hours fitting the right lids and jars together. I have a book that any parent of toddlers should buy called "The Toddler's Busy Book" that has 365 activities for little munchkins. You can often find it on a bargain rack at Borders or Barnes and Noble. I might try a few ideas out of there today in order to get some sewing done.

I started reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which seems to really suit my life of country living quite well. She writes about her family's one year commitment to live off of local foods, most coming from their very own farm. I am totally inspired by the romantic side of farming that she portrays... because quite honestly I am a total sucker for fresh produce. She is very preachy at times in her book, and doesn't seem to realize that not everybody happens to inherit a fruit orchard in Appalacia, Virginia. All I have to say is nothing beats a fresh cherry pie! I look forward to having a garden next year and trying my hand at eating as locally as possible.

Recipe: Blueberry French Toast Bake

My mom has been making yummy French Toast Bake for years and I LOVE it. I made my very first batch this weekend and it was even better than my mom made it... So I decided to share the recipe! Its awesome because you can make it the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning.
1 loaf of french bread (other bread works too)--cut into 1" cubes
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 package of cream cheese cut into cubes
8 eggs
1 3/4 cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)
REAL maple syrup
1. Beat eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon together.
2. Place half the french bread, half the blueberries and half the cream cheese in a 9x13" casserole dish and drizzle half the egg and milk mixture on top.
3. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients and place in fridge overnight (this is entirely optional, but comes out awesome!) Optional: drizzle with 1/4 cup maple syrup.
4. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncover and bake another 30 minutes. I have baked mine uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes and it came out fine (a little crispy on top). Serve with maple syrup or whipped cream!

This is great because it makes SO MUCH! You could also skip the cream cheese and blueberries on part or all of this for picky eaters. Blueberries are what we have always used but I look forward to trying this with blackberries as there are quite a few ripening in our patch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our first Harvest

Here is a picture showing a tart, a jar of jam and my new honey-pot made from a local potter. This is life in Appalacia at its best! :) I was able to make 13 jars of Cherry jam, 6 jars of pie filling, 1 ugly pie, and 5 tarts. The best part is, there are thousands more cherries to pick, pit and jar, bake or eat! What am I to do? Here are the cherries I picked in 45 minutes Friday night:

Father's Day Weekend

Saturday has officially become my market day. In a perfect world, I would remember exactly what I need for an entire week and buy it all on Saturday. This Saturday I stopped by the Woodbine Farmer's Market and Middletown's two farmer's markets. Then I spent the rest of the day making 7 jars of cherry pie filling and 1 ugly but deliciously tart cherry pie. MMmmmm.

Sunday I made Nick a delicious blueberry pancake and egg breakfast compliments of the neighbor's fresh eggs. Then we cleaned our living room and headed out to picturesque Millwood for a picnic and then to church in Winchester. On the way back we stopped in Stephen City for gas at Martin's (I had 30 cents off a gallon) and sampled "Pack's ice cream". It was super yummy but seemed to lack a distinctive quality to set it apart from everyone else. Notice how our lives revolve around food? At home we just relaxed and Nick built a castle out of Anastasia's blocks. It was a nice weekend in the country.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Yo ho yo ho... a Farmer's Life for Me!

Anastasia finally seemed to feel better Wednsday... her fever reduced from 103.8 to 97.8. What a relief! Unfortunately she has been rather congested and that seems to bother her quite a bit and makes her grumpy. Perhaps because all she will eat/drink is milk.

I have decided to eat as much local food as possible. There is such an abundance around here! Tomorrow I am going to hit a couple farmer's markets prior to the grocery store. I read recently that if every American family ate one locally produced meal per week, we would save 1 billion gallons of gas per week (I think it is a statistic from the Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".) That seems so huge. So I was thinking, if I ate 3 locally produced meals per week... that could save two people the trouble. I have this excellent cookbook called "Simply in Season" that my mom gave me for my birthday with recipes using produce specific to the season. I like the idea of eating organic but sometimes that can get pricey. But most local farmers use far less pesticides on their plants than the large Cooporate farmers and local simply tastes better. I am so happy that my neighbor gives me/sells me fresh eggs because now I don't see a need to have my own chickens. Now if only someone would deliver fresh, organic milk to my doorstep my life would be complete. :)
My mom came up yesterday and we went berry picking. It was a little hot in the sun for Anastasia so we took turns picking and ended up with 13 lbs of Strawberries which have made 15 jars of freezer jam, 2 freezer bags of frozen berries for smoothies/baking, 4 cups of frozen sugared berries and 4 pints divided between my mom and I for eating straight. There is nothing that beats fresh picked berries warmed and sweetened by the sun!

Then guess what I found the other night? A cherry tree in our yard covered in cherries!!! They are a bit sour but completely edible and will make yummy jam, pies, and cobbler! I need to make jam with the ones I picked yesterday and hopefully pick some more this evening if Nick will watch the munchkin. Then last night our neighbors pointed out our miniature pear tree, a plum tree and an apple tree!!! And I thought I only had a peach tree! Speaking of which, I just purchased an organic bug killer to spray it with made from Chrysanthemum. I hope I am not too late as the peaches are already a little hole-y. I am so excited about our fruitful yard. I feel in touch with my ancestors as they were amazing Czech farmers. And I didn't have to do anything except reap the harvest and make jam! It doesn't get any more local than your own backyard!

Monday, June 9, 2008

the Sickling

Anastasia has never been sick before (with the accept ion of a minor cold) so maybe that is why seeing her so ill caused me to overreact. She started with diarrhea on Friday night and woke up at 4am on Sunday with a fever. I gave her ibuprofen and she seemed okay by 10am when she finally woke up. She was very lethargic during church and when Nick handed her to me she was on fire. That's when I saw it... a little brown tick nestled behind and under her ear. I freaked out... ran her to the restroom ripped the thing off and flushed it away. I went back to my pew and started playing through worst case scenarios in my mind and I began to cry. I told Nick about the tick and we left with his parents to the ER. We had the option of treating her with antibiotics as though she had Lyme disease or to treat her 103.6 degree fever with Motrin and test her for Lyme in a couple months when it would be detectable. We chose the antibiotic route... just in case of Lyme or any other kind of infection the tick might have caused. If the tick and her illness are actually related or not we may never know. It still really scared me.

Besides that drama, we enjoyed the weekend with Nick's family. I found a really nice farmers market in Middletown, went shopping in Leesburg and now I have running water thanks to Nick and his dad. Washing dishes and doing laundry never seemed so luxurious. I hope to post some pictures soon.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

First Paint

I wanted to share pictures of Anastasia's first experience with paint. This was our first time doing an Unplugged project and I was really happy with the fun we had! Not only was Anastasia inspired by our fine art reading... I finally finished painting all her little peg people as inspired by the Crafty Crow and Colorfool. These are so reminiscent of the Fisher Price Little People I had as a kid. Anastasia has played with them non-stop since I finished them. I put a layer of decoupage paste over top of them to protect them from dents and dings. You know what was weird too? Nick's dad found a real Fisher Price little person under the water heater this weekend!
Anastasia did really well with her first time painting. She really just liked squishing it in her hands and playing with the sponges.
She took more care with the water colors as I tried to teach her the routine: water, paint, paper. I was really impressed at how well her first water color painting turned out:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Room for a Little Girl

Here are a few pictures of Anastasia's finally finished room. It took me about 10 tries to get these pictures uploaded due to a crummy connection! I love her bed! It is perfect for reading stories in and snuggling up at the end of the day! I feel like a princess in it and it isn't even my bed! All the pillows shown were handmade... the big ones were old dingy pillows made over with left-over curtain material. I made the small ones for the nursery we never really had. Either way... Anastasia and Leia have so much fun jumping all over the bed.
I love this little table and chairs. Almost everything pictured is from IKEA except the bunny picture, the random toys and the following bookcase.

This bookcase was mine as a kid but I refinished it as it used to be almost black. Its much more fun now.

Hope this is somewhat inspiring. :) It is 6:30 am and I woke up around 5:15 and could not sleep. I am NEVER up this early so it is a rare treat to have this much me-time. Nick's parents are in town for the next few days so we are heading to the hotel soon to bum showers and a free continental breakfast. I wonder if that is legal?

I was reading about BPA-laced water bottles last night and am very sad to say my faithful Nalgene is among the many toxic bottles. I have used my trusty Nalgene for 5 years now... and it is still as strong as ever. No apologies from the manufacturer for poisoning me for 5 years, only warnings from health professionals about how EVERY water bottle now jacks your endocrine system. I would be totally sold to any company who would offer a buck off a new BPA-free bottle for trading in your old bottle to be recycled. Unfortunately I haven't found that company yet. So what now? I was thinking of switching my devotions to a Swiss company called Sigg. The bottles are stainless steel and keep beverages cold longer with super trendy designs (you know that is what it is all about). The price tag is more than double that of a basic Nalgene but I think they may be easier to drink from. Nalgene does now offer a BPA-free line of plastic water bottles... but I may be sold out to steel. Because I am afraid of what they might find in plastic next.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Time to Paint

There is a new awesome website I HAVE to share called Unplugged. Every week a new theme is posted, and a craft project (generally too advanced for A.) which you can participate in. I have stalked the site for a while and decided now that things are settling down a bit, to participate in some of the themes/activities in such a way that appeals to a 16 month old. Its sort of like pre-preschool. This week's theme was "PAINT" and so today I made a smock for Anastasia for finger painting tomorrow! We also checked out some books from the library with famous paintings and a few fiction books with painting themes. So in light of paint, I wanted to share one of my favorite paintings by Vincent Van Gogh:

The cafe scene. Every time I see this picture I want to be there. I actually have this picture framed and was inspired to seek out the painting and hang it in my kitchen today. I also wanted to share this book, Looking at Pictures by Joy Richardson. I borrowed it from the library and I have learned quite a bit by reading it. There are a lot of really interesting tid-bits about classic art work. I would highly recommend this for older kids (who can read really well) and for younger kids to look at with you.

Other than that my life has been pretty busy. I finished Anastasia's room today so I will post pictures of it soon! I spent all day trying to fix my sewing machine that wasn't really broken (apparently I put the needle in wrong). We worked around the house all weekend, had a cookout at Andy and Heathers and saw Billy, one of Nick's friends from college.