Monday, June 27, 2011

Making dresses

Summer has begun in ernest.  In the business of swimming lessons, nightly fun swim, playing, cooking, and crafting, it seems that there's just no room left in the day for blogging...and often, not even time to take pictures.  The other day I handed the camera over to Sparky, and he captured an afternoon of dress-making.

Kitchen Sew-shop

My friend Lisa came over for the afternoon with her sewing machine, and we transformed my kitchen into a sew-shop, while I helped Lisa and Rachel work on shirred projects using elastic thread (I have one of my machines set with the proper bobbin tension, so it was just easier for everyone to use that one when they got to that part of their projects).

Kitchen Sew-shop

It's been so much fun getting to spend time with my littlest sister Rachel here in Texas.  We're so glad that she agreed to come back with us for a visit!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Stocking up for summer sewing

After two days in the car... we're back in Texas!  My little sister Rachel drove back with us (the littlest of my siblings -- she's 13), and she and I have decided that this will be the Summer Of The Craft.  Today, along with unpacking the car, swimming, and doing a ton of dishes, we also went to the fabric store and picked up supplies for a bunch of little summer dresses, aprons, and some embroidery.  So much fun!

The result of a fabric shopping trip with Rachel

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Birthday cake

Last Wednesday, Max turned 6.  We had planned a big celebration for the weekend, but I wanted to celebrate on his actual day as well, so my little nephew Chazz and I put together a quick ice cream cake.

Making ice cream cake with Chazz

I made it in the simplest way possible: crushed Oreos mixed with melted butter and pressed into a spring-form pan.  Softened vanilla ice cream spread into the pan, crushed oreos sprinkled over, and one final layer of vanilla ice cream spread over the top.  Simple and delicious!

Max, blowing out the candle on his ice cream cake

Not the best looking cake in the world, but I've never been very adapt at decorating.  As long as it tastes good, I feel like it was a success.  I froze it for several hours, then released it from the spring-form with a quick blast of the blow-dryer.  Simple!

On Sunday, we had the Big Birthday Party for Max with both sides of the family and a bunch of cousins, pot-luck style.  I made two lemon layer cakes, frosted with a lemony swiss-meringue-buttercream, and filled with raspberry jam and vanilla pastry cream.  The recipe is from Baking: From My Home To Yours (I know, so surprising) also found here online, and it's quickly becoming our go-to cake.

Birthday cakes

It's a lot of work, but oh-so-delicious, and just the perfect amount of fuss for an extra-special birthday cake.  Once again, I was a fail at the decorating, but it still tasted good, so I was happy.

Max and his birthday cake

(For more pictures of the big birthday party at my in-laws pond, you can click through to the Flickr set here.)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Camp-out Date Night

On Wednesday night, Greg took me on a Camping Date out in the woods.  It's so wonderful to make time to just be "us"; to spend time without the distractions of children, technology, or any other responsibility, and focus on each other.

Coming back from our camping trip
(Greg taught me how to drive this, although I was a little apprehensive about tipping it or encountering another vehicle on the narrow roads...)

Greg packed up his brother Keith's Polaris Ranger with all of our gear so that we wouldn't have to hike it all in.

My first campfire (that I built myself)

Greg showed me how to build a fire.  I was so excited when it actually lit!

My first campfire (that I built myself)

Behind the fire, you can see stacks of wood for the next morning, sorted by size to make starting the breakfast fire as simple as possible.  Greg is the most organized person I know.  Sometimes it doesn't drive me crazy.  :-)

Camping Date Night

We roasted marshmallows, ate snacks, and talked into the night before turning in, using Keith's camping cabin as shelter instead of pitching a tent.

Camping necessities
Crucial camping gear: Greg's grandpa's old knife, cooking pots, lots of water, and our little Leica point-and-shoot camera.

Bacon over the campfire
Nothing like bacon over a campfire in the morning.

Aunt Susie's eggs, ready to be turned into breakfast
Eggs from Aunt Susie, ready to be turned into breakfast.

Greg making us breakfast in the morning

Once we had packed up all of our things in the morning, we set up a little shooting range for some target practice, using the 22 that Greg's dad gave him for his 7th birthday.

Target practice

(We used our sleeping bag roll as a cushion to steady the barrel) 

Target practice

Spent brass from our target practice
Our spent brass

The marshmallow Greg shot right through the middle

Greg shot right through this marshmallow, although I couldn't even graze it.

The can I shot 5 times in a cluster

I wasn't sure that I had even shot this one until we went to retrieve it -- I managed to hit it 5 times all in a cluster!  (Yes, I thought I was awesome.)

We did this little camping trip last year too, and we've decided that we should probably make it a yearly tradition.  It is so refreshing to get away together, even just for a little while.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Visiting the East Coast

At the beginning of last week, we made the grueling, two-day road trip from Texas to my parents' house in upstate NY.  Pulling into their driveway on Monday night was such an intense relief!

Here is some embroidery that I did during our journey:

Embroidery done on our car trip from TX to NY

I didn't get much done, because I was completely absorbed in reading Harry Potter: The Half-Blood Prince (I'm such a looser -- I only get into things when they're no longer trendy).

The next five days were filled with lots of cooking (seven of my eight siblings still live at home, plus my little nephew, and then the addition of our family of six = sixteen people in the house), endless dishes (they have to run the dishwasher THREE TIMES A DAY), late (LATE!) night visits with my brothers and sisters, and lots of quality family time all around.  We were SO busy, in fact, that I never even managed to upload any pictures until just now.

My sisters and I, out together for the night
Three of my sisters and I, out for the night together.  (From left: Hannah, Grace, me, Joy -- Rachel is only 13, and therefore a little too young to go "out".)  As you can see, Grace and I managed to get caught in a flash thunder-storm.  Fun!

Family picture
My whole family except for my brother Jonathan, who is an officer in the Army and stationed in Germany.

I'll be sharing snippets of our visit over the next few days, as well as some of my projects that I've brought along to work on.  We're staying at my husband's parents' for the rest of the week, and the pace of life here is a bit more gentle, so I may be able to focus a little more on my own pursuits.

Have a lovely Monday!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy birthday Max

Dear Max,

On Wednesday, you turned 6 years old.

Happy birthday Max

It feels strange to say that, because I'm pretty sure that it was just yesterday that you were a chunky little toddler running around squirting shampoo into the toilet and stuffing tortillas down the shower drain.  In fact, I probably shouldn't even remind you of that time, because you might think it's a great idea to start all that up again.

Happy birthday Max

This year you will be a 1st grader.  You will loose your first tooth (the one that came loose the last day of kindergarten!)  You will grow taller and stronger, make new friends and learn new things.  Watching you grow is one of the beautiful bittersweet privileges of motherhood.

Happy birthday Max

I love your fierce tenderness, and your hilarious sense of humor.  You, my little friend, are a challenge and a joy.  I am so incredibly glad that I get to be your Mommy.

Happy birthday Max

You add so much excitement and fun to our family.  I'm glad that we have you!

I love you forever,

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Karaoke Girl's Night Out

On Friday night, Joy and I got all dressed up to go out with friends to a karaoke bar in North Austin.

Karaoke Night

I decided to wear black and silver (this outfit), but made up my eyes in turquoise (the Mermaid Collection "Temptress" and "Croma" combination in this Concrete Minerals review), and painted my nails sparkly turquoise, so at the last minute, I realized I needed a turquoise hairpiece to pull it all together.

I pulled out a bag of colored feathers and a glue gun (and some felt and a hairclip)...

Turquoise feather fascinator

And: viola!  A feathered fascinator!

Turquoise feather fascinator

Because there's nothing like a last minute accessory to pull it all together.  (Also known as: I need the pressure of an imminent deadline to get anything accomplished.)

Gotta love those plastic dinosaurs on the bathtub behind me.  'Cause that's classy.

And false eyelashes.  It's all about the false eyelashes.

Karaoke Night
Angela, me, Joy, Jenny (photo courtesy of Kristin Graham)

Karaoke Night
My friend Jenny and I (photo courtesy of Kristin Graham)

Karaoke Night
Jenny, Becca and Susanne (I suspect Jenny was trying to get into every picture) (not that Jenny would EVER do that!)  :-)  (photo courtesy of Kristin Graham)

Karaoke Night
Jenny and I attempting to sing "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer", which, as it turns out, neither of us knew.  (Photo courtesy of Val Wilson)

Becca and I at karaoke
Becca and I

Karaoke Night
"Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli-lolli-pop..."  (Photo courtesy of Val Wilson)

Joy refused to sing, which was sad, but we had a super fun time together, and I was so glad that she had an opportunity to get to know my friends a little.  She said after "I really like your friends, and I can see why you want to stay here forever."

Joy and I at karaoke

Good times!  For more pictures of our night, click through to our Flickr set here.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Recipe: Corn and Black Bean Salad

I'm pretty sure that I've shared this recipe before, but it's so simple and delicious that it bears repeating.  This is one of my favorite warm weather dinners -- so adaptable, and can be eaten warm over rice, cold wrapped in a tortilla, stuffed in a pita, piled over mixed spring greens, or served as a side to ribs or barbecued chicken thighs at a summer party.

  Corn and black bean salad

Ingredients (interpret the amounts to whatever sounds good to you/whatever you have on hand.):

Black beans (I simmer 1 lb dried beans until soft, but you can use 4 - 15 oz cans instead)
Minced red or yellow onions, scallions or shallots (however much you want -- a little goes a long way because we're leaving it raw)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Sharp cheddar, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Corn (I sliced mine off of two left-over cobs from the night before, but you can use about a cup of thawed frozen corn instead)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
Sea salt (to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil (a few tablespoons or to taste)
Fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 a lemon or red wine vinegar (to taste)
1 avocado, cubed (I slice it into cubes before scooping it out of the shell)

Toss together all of the ingredients except for the salt, oil, lemon juice and avocado to thoroughly combine.  Add the last four ingredients and toss gently (trying not to squish the avocado).  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Feel free to substitute or change the amounts of things as needed or desired.  Be creative, and enjoy!

Corn and black bean salad
(Served here over a bed of greens, dressed with a light vinaigrette)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Link-tastic Friday

Thank you to everyone who voted on weather we should keep the What I Wore Wednesday feature.  Out of 86 votes, only 29 of you voted to scratch the idea, so....we're keeping it!  If you don't like the Wednesday posts, just click away somewhere else on those days and I'll be none the wiser.  ;-)

Also, to everyone who guessed that the yellow shoe/vintage blue polka-dot dress ensamble from this week's What I Wore Wednesday post is guessed correctly!  Your Great Big Grand Prize 10 cool kid points, and the deep satisfaction that you are incredibly brilliant.

We are continuing to have a fun visit with my sister Joy with peaceful moments like this...

Billy reading to Joy

And wild ones like this...

Joy and I taking Tequila shots
(Tequila shots with salt and lime -- oh yeah!)

And moments that just make you say: What the #$$%?!

Greg showing us his gas mask
(Greg showing Joy and I how he sometimes does his PT in a gas mask to improve performance.  INSANE.)

It's been a while since we had a linky post around here.  Let's get to it!

Webwide coolness:
I wish that I had known about this recipe maker years ago!  Such a great tool, especially when you need to get dinner on the table using only what you've already got on hand.  This takes most of the guesswork out of the delicate art of substitutions!  (Via Fine Cooking)

Supercute free paper button tutorial (via Creature Comforts Blog) 
I want to make a whole bunch of these fabric flowers!  (Tutorial via Colette) 
A whole bunch of free, fun printables over at Skip To My Lou.

Food (savory):
I'm always on the look-out for inspiring recipes for the hot weather we have going on half the year here in Texas.  This looks fabulous! Beef Noodle Salad Bowls.  (Via Pioneer Woman)
Quick + simple + delicious.  I can't wait to try this!  Spicy Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp, via Everybody Likes Sandwiches.  
I made this Indian inspired Cucumber Peanut Salad for our camping trip a few weeks ago (pre-chopped the ingredients and put them in individual ziplocs, then all in one big ziploc as a salad kit).  It was so unusual and delicious -- I'm making more tonight to eat with dinner! 
We love potatoes in this house, so these Mustard Roasted New Potatoes are definitely going to be on the menu sometime soon (via Joy The Baker).

Food (sweet):
If I subbed in a good quality chocolate for the fake-tasting chocolate melt discs in this recipe, this would be an amazing, crave-worthy dessert!  PMS Cookies (via Just A Pinch). 
Oh my goodness, I have been thinking about these Toasted Coconut Waffles ever since Joy The Baker posted them! 
I made these healthy and deliciously addictive Honey Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas from Weelicious recently.  I just wish that peeling the chickpeas wasn't so labor intensive! 
Just like a no-bake cheesecake...except it looks even better.  Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits (via The Italian Dish). 
This makes me want to eat cannolis.  Now.  Strawberries with Cannoli Cream Dip (via Baked Bree).
My children love french toast, but I do not love standing at the stove long enough to get everyone fed. This sounds like an even more delicious version of the usual -- plus, it's baked, so no skillet time!  Creme Brulee French Toasts (via Smitten Kitchen). 
This looks fabulous, and peach season is just now upon us here in Texas.  Peaches and Cream Cake (via Mel's Kitchen Cafe).

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Project-restyle: men's button-down to baby dress

At last, a thrifting post!  As you might remember from this post, I had intended to write each month about my thrifting finds, but as you may have guessed...I haven't actually made it into a thrift store. Until last week.

Our friends, Josh and Angela, are having their first baby.  Josh is an avid button-down plaid-shirt wearer, so I came up with a personalized gift idea for their little girl:

Men's button-down shirt turned into baby pillowcase dress

Men's button-down shirt turned into baby pillowcase dress
I sewed the button band closed, then trimmed the top edge of the band down to reduce the bulk (for the elastic casing) and surged the edges.

Men's button-down shirt turned into baby pillowcase dress

Yes, it's yet another pillowcase dress (with matching hair-bow).  But this one started life as a shirt!  I am always so inspired by Elsie's "Project Restyle" posts, and I've been wanting to try something like this for ages.  Now I'm imagining a larger one for Daisy.... if only she'd wear plaid!  Maybe if I found a purple shirt...

A few more details: I used a 3 month sized baby dress as a template for the width, length and arm-hole depth.  Only time will tell just how well it actually fits a real-live baby, but it looked pretty spot-on compared to the template dress by the time I was done.  With the shoulder-ties it should be a pretty flexible fit.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What I Wore Wednesday: sister/sister window shopping

Instead of taking more pictures of Joy and I together, we decided to use Polyvore to each put together outfits for a perfect "girl's night out" look.  I love how differently the ensembles came together!  The question is...can you guess whose is whose?


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