Friday, February 24, 2012


So before Isabel was born, I ended up on a blog (that I don't remember now) written by a mother of 8 children. I remember her posting about secrets that make life easier when you have a large family. One of her secrets was buying those over-packaged, over-priced tubes of yogurt and keeping them in the freezer. She claimed it was a mess-free way to get toddlers something healthy, and keep them occupied for a while. Supposedly it relieves teething pain, and can be thrown in the diaper bag frozen to thaw for a healthy, snack on the run. I was sceptical, but I had no idea how true her claims were. Frozen tubes of yogurt are the best snack in the world, trumped only by ice cream in my household. I was wrapping them up in a cloth napkin for the girls to keep their hands from freezing which worked perfectly. Then Kieran caught on to the trendy yogurt snack and he couldn't keep the napkin on, would throw a fit and then throw the yogurt tube on the floor. So I invented the frozen-yogurt-tube cozy:
Yes, it is the absolute silliest thing in the entire world, I will admit, but it is one of my most brilliantly simple inventions EVER. I am glad to know my countless hours doing mensa puzzles has not completely been wasted. haha. Then one day, my invention became even more crazy-useful! They double as cast-iron skillet handle cozies:
These silly upcycled sweaters have changed my life, almost as much as frozen tubes of yogurt. Now I can hold the skillet steady, grab the handle to stir, or carry a skillet of eggs to the kitchen table. To make, I just used the sleeve or bottom of a slightly-felted, fairly-thick wool sweater and cut a 3 1/2 by 4inch square along the finished edge of the sweater. I folded it in half length-wise and sewed it, leaving the finished sweater edge open. Easy, 2 minute project that is sure to change the world of cast-iron cooking.
And, it is gets 5 stars from the cute crowd. :)
So go make some today, stock your fridge with frozen tubes of yogurt (we like the stonyfield farm organic!) and enjoy the perfect snack with warm hands.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cozy, snow and dusty, ashes.

I do not like winter in general, but the weather this winter has been very nice! We have had so few cold days this year and I am very grateful. And even though they were fleeting, we had a couple small snows as well. We unfortunately were not able to build snowmen or go sledding, but we still enjoyed the beauty before it melted into a new round of mud.
Sadly, Isabel, Kieran and Nick were all sick with a yucky cold on Valentines Day. My long list of crafts and decorating ideas were shot because of the cranky baby and the whiny 3-year old. And Nick stayed home from work, sniffling and coughing. We didn't even drink our bottle of prosseco that we bought with a gift card I won. I did however wake up before the sun (which is a miracle in itself) and baked my family some tastey cinnamon rolls, eggs and local bacon. The girls made valentines from doilies and stickers and random paper I had laying around. And I made coffee in my new french press that Nick gave me as a Valentine's gift. I must say, I LOVE my french press and will never brew coffee any other way again!
We also had popcorn and m&m's while watching Charlie Brown's Valentine's Day movie on Hulu. Simple, sweet, and tasty. Like Valentines Day should be. :) And Anastasia drew us a family portrait that melts my heart a hundred times over:
Over the weekend we took a pretty hike near my parents house... before we got snowed in at their house. It was such a pretty day and we ever saw a couple of adorable beavers and some deer!
And now it is Ash Wednesday. Speaking of ashes, Kieran is still obsessed with playing in ashes! It really drives me a little crazy, but this too shall pass. Perhaps he just likes to remember that we all are but made of dust, and to dust we shall return. Somehow covering himself in ashes must make it seem more real. Lent is beginning again and I can't believe it at all. I really feel like last lent was only a few months ago. I am contemplating Easter dresses, my vegetable garden and basket goodies already while remembering the sorrows endured for our redemption. And it is BEAUTIFUL and spring-like outdoors so we will be taking advantage of God's kindness and creation this afternoon. Hope you all have a reflective, beautiful lent.
"To all who mourn in Israel, He will give them a crown of beauty for ashes. a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for His own glory." Isaiah 61:3

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nature's playground

Last week my mom and I took the girls to the Virginia Arboretum on a pretty day. Its amazing how you find a new spot of beauty each time you visit.
Anastasia chose visiting the arboretum over the park. Good choice my dear.Children climbed trees long before playgrounds were invented.
And what an odd winter it has been, warm and sunny and 50-60 degrees one day, and today it is snowing and a bit on the chillier side. Cozying up with some coffee and this FANTASTIC gluten free almond cake! The best thing in the world is a Saturday free of plans and commitments. :) Happy weekend to you all.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Handmade Birthday Part 2: Paintable houses

So the other part of Anastasia's gift this year was a little dollhouse from Michael's to paint. They were labeled as "CD house" or something, so we are using them for the wrong purpose I guess. They were really fun for the girls to paint:
This was Anastasia's. They took a couple hours to do. Perfect for a cold January afternoon (which we haven't had much of this year). Oh, and I ended up having to finish the painting inside the houses because they got a little tired of painting.
I also added scrapbook paper to the back walls to give them a little pop. I made some couches for each house, and pillows and beds which I didn't get pictured.
And this is Isabel's:

I am very happy with how they turned out! I think they would make spectacular gifts for little friends too. :)
Are you sick of Lalaloopsy taking over my blog? Yeah... its getting a little out of hand over here. Annnnnd its snowing today, so I hope to get out the watercolors and come up with some Valentine crafts! :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Handmade Birthday Part 1: Lalaloopsy Playmat

Anastasia has a new obsession: mini Lalaloopsy dolls. "Sew Magical, Sew Cute" is their little tag-line. And I kind of admit, I actually think they are super cute. They look like little rag dolls, have crafty hobbies, inspire originality, their boxes double as cute crafty-looking houses and they each come with a little friend that is a plastic version of something handmade. The "plastic version of handmade" is such an oxi-moron, and it bothers me a little to think of something handmade being recreated in a factory in China, and made of plastic. Plastic, of all things! But alas, I have caved. And well, I really have fun playing with them compared to Disney princesses. So to combat all things manufactured, I did create a handmade play mat, for these charming plastic rag-dolls that we all can't seem to get enough of.
I have to admit, I had a much better picture in my head of how this would turn out. I was a little dissapointed in the end result, but I have come to terms with it. I was really inspired by this playmat on Etsy, but I wanted to make it round so it could fold up easily like this tutorial. But in the end, I wish I had just bought the pattern on Etsy and made a little drawstring bag for it all. Of course, it would have helped if I hadn't waited until the NIGHT BEFORE Anastasia's birthday to do most of it. Good grief. Some people just never learn. The little trees have to be my favorite part. I found the idea for those here. They were so fun and easy and you can make an entire forest for a nature table in no time at all. In fact, the kids have played more with those than the playmat itself!
I like the winter part of the playmat the best. I made little mountains/trees from felt from a tutorial on Allsorts. I feel like they look like Dr. Suess-looking mountains personally. But I am leaving them up for interpretation by my little ones.
And this is the little garden with one of my favorite LalaLoopsies, and her pet unicorn. And you have to love the little heart stitching in the embroidery hoop. I mean, SERIOUSLY? I think its as cute as can be!
I also like how the beach turned out, with the seashell buttons sewn on. I wish I had made everything bigger, and straighter. In fact, if I make another playmat, I would make a big circle and applique everything on. I tried to patch it all together, and that was a big mistake! Nothing fit right, it still won't lay flat, and it was such a pain!! It my head it was brilliant, but definitely ended up being a learning experience. And sadly, no one really plays with it. But maybe someday they will find it at the bottom of the toy box and realize out how awesome it is. At least my children play with the manufactured, plastic version of handmade. Ha!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Rainbow Cake Disaster

Once upon a time there was me. (This was how Isabel started the story of Rapunzel, being told by her Rapunzel doll!) Anyway I saw THIS beautiful rainbow cake thanks to the wonderful, time-sucking world of Pinterest and I of course had to make it. My thoughts were that because it didn't look to difficult to decorate, and I stink at decorating cakes. And I HATE dealing with icing (other than eating it) and I HATE HATE HATE cleaning out those icing bags, and filling them, and squeezing them 100,000 times. Cakes are not my thing. So I thought, okay, this just requires 6 tiny colored cakes and icing stacked and slathered with more icing. Easy peasy, I can do this, right? HAHAHAHAHA. I was so wrong.

I decided to take the easy way out and buy a *gasp* mix for a white cake. Well. That was the first mistake. 1 mix wasn't enough, but I got 3 little cakes, so I made a white cake from scratch for the last 3 layers. Then I began slicing off the tops and stacking them. It was lopsided from the get-go, and just got more so. Then came the orange, second-to-last layer which was too thick and I sliced in half. It was a little crumbly (cake mix) but I got my layer of frosting on. Then came the red layer... and I set it on top, proud of my cake tower. And then it happened. IT CRACKED. Not just once, but EVERYWHERE. I tried saving it with frosting, but then it started crumbling! And as I spread the frosting down the sides, it caused more bright red crumbling. It was a big, red, crumbly, uneven blob. OH and it was 1am. What was I to do? Then, I thought, if I can get it in the pyrex, and frost it, that would work. Even if it falls apart, cake soup is better than no cake. Right? So I used a very thin plate, lifted the cracking, crumbling mess of a cake and slid it underneath, then slid it into my pyrex baking dish I assumed it fell apart. I made buttercream icing, but because I wasted so much with all the crumbs, I ran out of powdered sugar, so I just threw in some white sugar. I think that was bad idea number 116. Because it was over-sweet and gritty. Ugh. But it worked. And then, miraculously when I cut into it, it looked like this:
It was so pretty inside! Like a rainbow! All the kids picked the cupcakes, except maybe 2 or 3, who complained the rainbow cake was too sweet.
I guess so when you use 4lbs of sugar in the frosting. Oops. Oh well. Anastasia told me it tastes like rainbows and is sooooo pretty. I guess thats all that really matters at the end of the day. So the morals of the story are: Don't buy a mix. Follow the directions on the blog you are copying. Buy 10 bags of powdered sugar and 4 boxes of butter. Or better yet, go to the store and BUY AN ALREADY BAKED CAKE!!! So we can all live happily ever after.