Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to school

The boys have started school.
(Notice Max's outfit -- he dressed to match his new lunch bag)

I managed to hold back my tears as I gave them each a final, crushing hug in their classrooms on Monday...

The first few days were a little bit of a struggle as we each learned to deal with the earlier mornings, the packing of the "right" lunches (who knew that finding the "wrong" thing in your lunchbox could be so emotional?!), and helping the boys learn to decompress when they first walk in the door after school.  The little ones have finally stopped feeling so sad about the emptiness of the house, and the gentler pace of our day has gone from strange, to very, very welcome.

We've hosted a tiny tea party with a few friends (I've started reading Mary Poppins to the boys, and they were very impressed with the Raspberry Jam Cakes),

Attended a Little Guy Costume Tea Party,

And I've enjoyed the extra cuddle time and slower pace of moments spent with my littler people.  It's been a busy week, full of emotion and adjustments, but overall, it's been good.  The school year has begun.

In my next post, I have a few projects to share with you.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Max's self-portrait pillow

Yesterday afternoon Max helped me put together first a pillowform (which he stuffed himself!), and then the embroidered pillowcase ("Wow, your sewing machine sews WAY FASTER than you, Mommy!").


He is pretty sure it's the coolest pillow that was ever made.

When people ask me why I take the time to do the slow handwork that so often fills my days, I want to show them pictures of little faces that look like this:

The envelope style closure on the back of the pillowcase doubles as a blanket caddy for his quiet time at school
When we finished the pillow and he held it in his arms for the first time, I explained how he could hug it during his rest time at school. I told him that when he traced the stitches with his fingers, he could think about how I worked those stitches for him, and he could remember how much I love him, even when he was at school. Tears pricked both of our eyes, and he hugged me fiercely, then ran off with the pillow to show it proudly to Greg.

Oh yes my friends, it was totally worth the effort.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wrapping up the summer...

 On Friday we met up with some friends and spent the day on a pebbled beach.





Yesterday I cut apart two decommissioned uniform tops of Greg's and turned them into insulated lunchbags for the boys:


I used a double layer of Insul-Bright (available on sale at Ann's Fabrics and Crafts in widths of 22.5" and 45".)   I tested out one of the bags with a tiny cold pack inside of it, and with the zipper closed, the pack was still cold -- although not frozen -- after 6 hours.  Not bad!

I have so many zippers in my stash, that it wasn't hard to find ones in the boy's favorite colors:


As these were each cut from the two fronts of Greg's uniform tops, they still have Greg's name-tape on it, so I just wrote their names in permanent black marker underneath the embroidered last name (not shown -- on the other side of these).

The insides are oilcloth (purchased at in their favorite colors (the burgundy is actually more deep and not at all pink as this photo might lead you to believe):


It is SO HARD to find fabric in boys patterns!  All of the laminated cotton and oilcloth available locally is flowered or otherwise Super Girly, so I was relieved to find a boy appropriate solution for this project.


I left some of the buttons on the button-bands, to emphasize the This Used To Be A Real Uniform factor.

Overall, the bags are a bit narrow for my taste (and a little wonky overall, sewing wise), but the boys love them.  They're from their daddy's old uniforms and handmade by their mommy, and they think these bags are awesome.  It comforts me to know that they're taking a little bit of handcrafted love with them to school.

Today I'm working on turning this embroidery of one of Max's self-portraits (which I completed during our road trip):


into a pillow for him to take for class quiet times.  And then...we are ready for school.  Tomorrow morning is coming soon...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bittersweet...the last days of summer

The summer is drawing to a close.  It has been a wonderful summer, full of creative fun, challenges, reading books together, learning to be more patient, organizing our days so that the my children can experience the innocent joys of a childhood summer...

This week has been so busy preparing for this coming Monday, the 1st day of school.  Each morning has been a scavenger hunt at store after store, accomplishing their school supplies list:


My patience has been sorely tried with dozens of pencils and crayons dumped out of boxes and sifted out through the shopping cart, children screaming through the notebook aisle, searching for the required colors of plastic folders, learning what in the heck a Map Pencil is (colored pencils.  Why can't the list just say "colored pencils"?!), sourcing giant sheets of manila drawing paper and construction paper (Hobby Lobby) and Prang brand watercolor paints (also Hobby Lobby).... but now that the list has been accomplished, I want my children to be able to drink in the fleeting last few days before their school starts... the last few days of being Big Wild Happy Loud Crazy Us.

Watergun fights (as watched through the window by hesitant baby),

playing with a great big fresh batch of smooth, warm playdough:

reading chapter books (we've just started Mary Poppins),

Last night was Meet The Teacher's Night, and the boys have been buzzy with excitement about the potential of exploring their new classrooms, new schedules, new teachers, and so in anticipation we set up their playroom as a classroom yesterday:

I don't pretend to know what was going on with the Santa Clause hats, but it was rather cute.  Later on as we were walking out the door to meet their teachers, I noticed that, while Max was still dressed as Father Christmas, Sparky had changed into full Cowboy Attire (complete with a wooden sword and a flowered leather embossed purse slung across his body.  It was amazing.)

Today there will be swimming and sunshine and reading and cuddling... we're all very much looking forward to the beginning of this next school year, but at the same time, it's a little bittersweet....and for that, I'm glad.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meatballs and rolls to take over the world

When I'm away from my kitchen for too long, I start to feel a little bit un-centered.  I mean, I cooked in my parent's house and in Greg's parent's house during the past 2 weeks, but sometimes working in another person's kitchen can feel a bit like trying to run through water.  In my kitchen I know where everything is, I know what sort of things that I keep stocked in my pantry, and I have my own cookbooks in easy reach on my own kitchen bookshelf.  All of this to say, it was with GREAT RELIEF when I finally got back to my own kitchen.  It's amazing just how FAST I can cook when I know where everything is!

One of the last dinners I made before we left on our trip was Spaghetti and Meatballs from Pioneer Woman's recipe.  They were so good, that the memory of it stayed with me for the next two weeks, and by the time that we were driving home, I began daydreaming of meatballs... (let's not assign any Freudian theories to that business...)

On Monday I hit my kitchen with a fury, baking our usual Honey Whole Wheat Bread, a batch of Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day dough, and forming meatballs.  Using the Artisan dough, I formed rolls and set them to rise, then followed Pioneer Woman's recipe/idea for making buttered rosemary rolls, using some beautiful fresh rosemary trimmed from a neighbors hedge (the people next door to us have an entire hedge of rosemary.  Seriously.)

I've always liked meatballs OK, but I've never LOVED them until this recipe.  I'm guessing it has to do with the moist combination of pork and beef, and the fact that they are browned in a generous dose of olive oil before starting the sauce.  Another major turn-on of this dish is in the great big glug of red wine that's added to simmer with the tomatoes.  I almost hesitate to say this next part, because if any of my siblings read this, I will be killed dead, but...instead of crushed tomatoes, I used one can of whole diced tomatoes, and one can of generic tomato sauce.  Also, the red wine that I used was the "burgundy" out of a cheap screw-top jug.  But shhhh, let's keep that on the down-low, shall we? Anyway, the browned meatballs are then added to the sauce to simmer even further and the entire thing is infused with meatiness and delicious, richly flavored tomatoey goodness until the meatballs are cooked through.

And it was delicious!  And I would serve it to company!  And I will make this often!

The rolls turned out even better than I'd expected -- brushing the dough with butter and then baking them in the cast-iron pan gave the crust a crispness, and the butter seemed to infuse it all through.  Greg thought for a moment that they were biscuits.  I just thought that they were OHMYGOSHGOOD.

I had roasted 2 heads of garlic and mashed them with extra virgin olive oil and salt to serve with the rolls, but they didn't end up needing anything extra at all.  They were just THAT TASTY.  Oh yeah baby.  Did I mention that I am completely addicted to carbs?  No?  Then let us not speak of it.  (Don't cry for the roasted garlic spread though -- I've been smearing it on everything except the breakfast cereal.  It tastes like garlic butter, but even better!)

Hurrah for breadiness!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Trip recap (home again at last!)

We are home again at last!  Our trip was wonderful but exhausting; all that time in the car on the way there wasn't too bad, but on the way home, the children were a bit more fragile and there was much more of Mommy Catapulting Herself Dangerously Around A Moving Vehicle while trying to help each child avoid meltdown.  Thankfully, we finally pulled into our driveway on Sunday night, sanity still intact, and walked into our beautifully clean, peacefull home.  (Do you clean like a crazy person before a long trip?  I find that it's the best gift I can ever give to myself.  A clean floor, a clear head, a good night's sleep in my own bed.  Good stuff.)

All that time on the road, however, did have it's perks.  Here's a sneak peek at some stitching and knitting that happened along the way:


Highlights of the final week included berry picking with 6 of my 8 siblings (along with Greg, our 4 children, my sister's toddler, my parents and two friends = 17 people):



Watching the adorably plump, blond cousins become friends (sort-of):


"High five, Grandpa!"

Doing a puppy photo-shoot (my parents raise and sell Golden Retrievers):

And finally, going out for dinner and dancing with Greg and my sisters (along with a friend and one sister's boyfriend):

Dancing with Joy


Grace and I


(Note to self -- must get better at taking self-portraits!)

Overall, I'm glad that we went on this little adventure, but we are all very happy to be off the road and back in our little home again at last.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Swimming and birthdays!

I've been meaning to post about the crafty things that I've been doing on this trip, but I'm too busy to do much more than catch you up on our vacation goings on.  We're in NY this week, spending time with my family.  On Tuesday, we went to a nearby state park for a rather cold -- but fun -- swim/splash.  My sister Hannah and her toddler Chazz were there too, although they arrived after I'd already stowed my camera away.


That night we had planned a "Five Little Cousins Birthday Dinner Party" to cover birthday celebrations past and upcoming for all of the little guys. 


One of my aunts brought gifts, I made dinner (4 chickens roasted with lemon-thyme-garlic butter, gravy, rice, sauteed red swiss chard, romaine salad, corn on the cob) with some help from Greg and my mom, and made 2 layer cakes (lemon cake filled with a quick blueberry jam/sauce and vanilla pastry cream, and frosted with a lush lemon swiss meringue buttercream).

After dinner, Hannah assembled the cake (she had also made the pastry cream) with Chazz's help.


Chazz had the very important job of Frosting Taster.


He may have had a little bit of help from some friends.





(I can bake things that taste great, but I am severely challenged when it comes to decorating, so I was glad that Hannah took that part over for me.)

My littlest sister Rachel put as many candles as she could into the tops of the cakes,


and we turned the lights down for everybody's favorite song.







Happy pre and post birthday to all!


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