Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jonah Tote Bag (belated birthday gift)

In December, Jonah turned 4 years old.  We celebrated his birthday as a family, but because of moving and Christmas and New Year...we didn't end up having his actual birthday party until last week.  And yet, still somehow, I didn't manage to finish his gift in time!!  My goodness.  Finally yesterday I sat down at my sewing machine, and about an hour later, DONE.  I already had the little slate (found it while we were moving -- gotta love "brand new/found" items!), and the fabric was from my stash, so the gift ended up costing me a total of about $0.58 cents -- the cost of the box of chalk.  LOVE it when things work out like that!!

Tote bag birthday gift for Jonah

I just used a Sharpie to write his name on the bag instead of taking the time to embroider it -- I really didn't need yet another reason to procrastinate!

Tote bag birthday gift for Jonah

Inside there's room for the slate and a little pocket for the chalk.  On the outside, the "Jonah" pocket is just the right size for a small stuffed animal.

Tote bag birthday gift for Jonah

Tote bag birthday gift for Jonah

Tote bag birthday gift for Jonah

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chocolate-Rosemary-Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

This morning, Jonah and I decided to make up a batch of whipped body butter -- we were nearly out of the first batch we made a few months ago, and I wanted to give some little jars to all of my children's teachers as well (since we were moving to our new house right during Christmas, these will be...Happy Almost Spring! gifts.)

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Have you ever wanted to try making some?  This is only the second time we've made it, so I'm certainly not an expert, but here's what we did.

Cast of characters:
Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Sweet Almond OilCocoa ButterCoconut Oil (extra-virgin),  Shea Butter (I use raw and unrefined, which has a strong olive oil-sort-of-smell, but you can get the milder refined version if you prefer), lemongrass essential oil (optional), fresh rosemary (optional).

It is easiest if you use a scale to measure out the solid fats before melting them down, but you can also just use a measuring cup after melting -- up to you.  The ratio is: 1 part each cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil.  (I weighed out 3.5 oz of each, because the NOW brand cocoa butter comes in a 7 oz container, and I liked the idea of using exactly half for one batch, because....I don't know, I'm weirdly neat like that.)

If you use 2 parts shea and cut out the cocoa, your body butter will be softer when it sets up, but I love the rich, natural chocolate scent so much, which is why I choose to include it.

Melt the cocoa butter in the microwave in 1 minute intervals, or gently in the top of a double boiler.  Next, melt the shea butter in the microwave in 30 second intervals (it's much softer and takes less time).  If you're using the double boiler, just add it to the nearly melted cocoa butter.  Next, add Sweet Almond Oil and fresh rosemary (if using), and allow it to steep for at least 15 minutes.  Since I was using other scented ingredients, I'm not sure this was really strong enough to make a difference, so I might not do this step again.  Strain out solids.

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Add the infused oils back to the mixing bowl, then add the coconut oil as a solid, and use an immersion blender to thoroughly combine it.

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

(Technically, the warmth of the other oils should melt the coconut, but in my last batch it left little coconut oil "nubs" throughout, and since this was a gift, I wanted it to be ultra-smooth.  Alternately, just melt the coconut and pour it in -- it'll just take longer for the whole thing to cool down enough to whip later.)  Add lemongrass essential oil (if using).  I used 7-10 drops, but add it slowly until you have the strength you want.

Leave the oil mixture out to cool on the counter for 30 minutes to 1 hour -- do not refrigerate to speed this up, or it could harden around the edges and make the final product lumpy...then you'd have to melt it all down and start the cooling again.  No fun.

Once it is opaque and slightly viscous, begin whipping (I love my KitchenAid mixer.  After about 10 minutes, it should look exactly like a whipped frosting, and smell just as delicious.

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Probably don't decide to taste it though.  It looks good and feels good, but taste...not so much.

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Now scoop it into jars, and you're DONE!

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Chocolate Rosemary Lemongrass Whipped Body Butter tutorial

Use sparingly -- this stuff is intense moisture!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Because it's just never too early to start embarrassing your children

With Jonah and his little friend M while dropping them off at school yesterday (notice M's face throughout -- "She's pretty weird, but we all know that, and... she's not my mom!"):

Hey, are you guys cold?
School fellows

Do you want to give each other a hug?
School fellows

...Am I making you feel awkward?
School fellows

Hahahahahaha and I'm not sorry.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Monday and Wednesday are my days off to do with as I wish each week, as they are the days that all four children are in school.  Today, I spent the morning grocery shopping, then the early afternoon in my studio, listening to an audio book (currently enjoying A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness), and preparing to create new slipcovers for the throw pillows in my living room.

Current throw pillows (to be replaced)
They've been well loved...and I'm ready for a new look (planning on salvaging the hand-embroidery in the new designs)

Favorite teacup with my favorite tea
My favorite teacup (with at shape that curves in at the top just before it curves back out, keeping my tea just perfectly warm) and my very favorite tea

Blue fabric in my studio
Blue fabric choices in the studio

Blue fabrics

blue themed throw pillows in progress

I am very much looking forward to taking you readers on a tour of each room in our new house, but for now, I'm in full-on nesting mode.  Jonah is eating a snack and watching Dora, so I'm off to steal a few more moments in the studio before the older children blow back in the door from school.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

...and we're back!

QUICK NOTE: I've decided to start using my children's real names.  I made the decision to come up with screen names for them years ago, and the reasons I had then no longer seem important today.  So.  From now on: Andrew, Elijah, Lavella and Jonah.  There it is.

Well.  When I've been out of the blogging habit this long, it's kind of hard to know where to begin.  I'm not going to give you a full recap, because that would just be POKEMYEYESOUTBORING and I do my best not to bore my friends.  Although actually, some of my friends probably wish I'd be a little more boring.  Oh well, no matter, MOVING ON!

Here's the highlights:

The first two weeks of December, I worked harder than I may have ever worked in my life, packing up our family to move, scrubbing down the old house, preparing our new house (spackle, paint, pulling down wallpaper, etc.), and trying to keep the children and myself alive and well through it all.  Thankfully I have friends who love me, who stopped in here and there during that OH SO HECTIC holiday month to help out an hour or two here or there, wherever they could.

Learning to skip-trowel my bathroom
Learning to skip-trowel the bathroom walls

Preparing to paint my bathroom a clean, warm white
Getting ready to paint with the PERFECT WARM WHITE (thanks Becca...)  ;-)

Cutting out the old caulking in the upstairs shower
Cutting old caulking out of the shower

Jonah, working on cleaning the sanding dust from our new kitchen table
Wiping the sanding dust off the new kitchen table (built by our friend Josh, finished by Jonah, Elijah and me)

Sanding off the stain on the edges: giving a worn look to my brand new kitchen table
Giving a worn look to the new table by sanding stain off the edges

Learning to use a sander

Jonah, helping me put a poly-coat on the new kitchen table
There's nothing like applying a poly-coat with a Crayola watercolor brush...

Kitchen table -- handmade by a friend, finished by me
Table in progress (I promise a finished pic soon -- we've been using it in our new kitchen since we moved in!)

Some brain-candy for the new house

Housewarming gift
A rather fabulous housewarming gift (thank you Becca!)

Greg graduated from the nearly year-long course he'd been taking and drove home to live with us again (yay!!) on December 14th.  We sent our children to spend the weekend with friends, then spent those two days cleaning and packing all of the last minute things.  On Monday and Tuesday (17th and 18th), a bunch of our friends came and helped us load all of our boxes into a U-Haul truck, get it officially weighed at a truck-stop (so the Army would pay us per pound for household goods), and move everything into our new place.

Once we'd gotten everything in, Greg and I began the huge task of unpacking and setting up our new home...this time, in a place we plan to live in for the rest of our lives.  (For those of you who are wondering -- yes, Greg will still be stationed other places at different points in the remaining 8-10 years of his career, but we felt this was the best choice for our children and me to stay here, and for him to live with us as often as he possibly can.)

We took Christmas Day off as a time to just enjoy our children and each other, but then got back to work the next day, and managed to get the house almost entirely set up by our goal date: New Year's Eve.

Christmas 2013
Opening gifts from family on the East Coast using Skype

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

We had a great big "first party" on New Year's Eve with friends and neighbors to christen the new house, and it was an incredible feeling -- for the first time ever, we were really, truly HOME.

Angela, me, Greg, Josh: New Year's Eve
Greg and I with our BFF's, Angela and Josh

Tom on New Year's Eve in his Weird Science costume showing off his giant High Life
It was a costume party, so our friends Tom and Susanne dressed up as the kids from Weird Science.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture of them with their bra-head get-ups together, but it's hard to shoot anything while hosting a party of this size!

Jenny and I on New Year's Eve

Greg took leave from the day of his graduation until the end of last week, so we made sure to get in some daytime dates.

Early morning run with my favorite guy
Early morning run with my favorite guy

Lunch date with my guy
Lunch Date

Antique store shopping date
Antique store browsing - one of our favorite relaxing, low-key dates

Antique store shopping date
...might this be the beginning of a teacup collection for my studio....?

On Friday morning, he began the process of signing back in at Ft Hood, and yesterday was his first full day back to work.

Today, I'm sitting here at my computer typing this, thinking how crazy it is that...just like that...after all of the effort, sweat, tears, projects, emotions, we are, living our normal life again.  Family.  Together.  Jonah's taking a nap.  The three older children are just about to walk in the door from school.  I will start dinner.  In 3 hours my children will jump on Greg as he walks in the door with his Army uniform on, ready to eat dinner with us.  Just like that.  It's good to be together.

Well.  I hope I didn't bore you to the point of tears, and everyone still has their eyes.  I've got some ideas for blogging in the coming year, and mostly...I'm just glad to be HOME HOME HOME!!!


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