Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Neighbor Treats

Oh, the Satisfaction. Another Holiday Delight checked off my list: the Treats for Neighbors. This year, I made the meringue cookies and put some in celophane bags, tied with a ribbon I had in the house, and photoshopped a drawing my son made into a hang tag. The neighbors were pleased, but next year, I think I'll make a few more cookies for each person. I quadrupled the batch and I would have liked to put another 4 to 6 cookies in each bag.

Now, onto making cookies for the firemen and policemen....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We Love Maisy

Well, we do love Maisy. And, so does my friend, Liz, and her little girl, Maia. So I made these overalls and will give them to Maia. Using Oshk*sh overalls, the work on these is very simple applique, with chenille, fleece and cotton fabrics. I think I'll give her these Maisy books, too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Glitter, Here!

Well, it seems glittered items are popping up everywhere . In Columbine, one of my favorite stores here in Marin, glittered deer, glittered birds and glittered pine cones are for sale. They sell these small pinecones for $2.00 each or bigger pine cones in a bag - 10 for $30. As usual, I think, I can make that! There's a great store in Berkeley, Castle In the Air, that sells that beautiful German glitter. R and I have been collecting pine cones, so after my trip to Berkeley, tomorrow, we'll be busy! The nice thing about the pine cones is that you can put them surreptitiously in a corner before Thanksgiving and then bring them out center stage for the Holidays.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Party in the (Dark) Park

My friend, Liz, had a party in one of our favorite parks around. We call it Dark Park, as it's always shaded by massive redwood trees. Superb in the summer, and today, it was almost 80 degrees (I know, we're spoiled here in Northern California). The party was to celebrate sweet Maia's third birthday. With such a lovely day to start, the children had fun with little cars, racing them down the slides and Liz made this great homemade playdough. I'll put the recipe, below. Maia and R had such fun with the tea party.

C and M wanted to come to the party, too, and Liz graciously extended invitations to them, as well. Where ever C goes, he finds the best things to make something. Here he's making a crossbow and arrow from a found long balloon, string and a couple of sticks.

For Christmas, I'm planning on making him a pocketed craft curtain to hold all kinds of recycling treasures with which he can make something. Things like string, toilet paper rolls, bits of metal, rubber bands, etc. I got the idea from Soulemama. It will be just perfect for him - I can't wait to see his excited smile when he sees it!

And, just to show you a small glimpse of the beautiful redwood trees....

And, as promised, here is the playdough recipe (it uses kool-aid):

1 C Flour
1 Tbsp Veg. Oil
1 Pckg unsweetened Kool-Aid (won't stain hands & smells good, too)
1/4 C Salt
2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar
1 C Water

Mix Flour, salt, cream of tartar & kool-aid in a medium pot. Add water & oil and stir over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes. When mixture forms a ball in pot, remove. Knead until smooth. Put in a plastic bag or container & refrigerate. (This recipe easily doubles for double the fun.) Here's a link for some other playdough recipes (pretty similar, but a couple of differences).

Liz's came out in lovely colors - green, red and a sugar-cookie dough color (using lemonade kool-aid). I've been wanting to make homemade play dough for as long as C has been interested - has it really been 7 years that I wanted and hadn't made it? Well, I'm off to the market to get the Kool-Aid so I can make it the next time the urge strikes! (Liz was kind enough to send the children home with homemade play-dough favors, so I'm set for awhile!).

And, boy, these photos look so flat and washed out. I need a new camera in the worst way! Any recommendations, anyone?


OMG! I JUST found this fab website to design your OWN fabric! $18 per yard (and with no set up fees)! My mind is literally reeling with all the possibilities! Go check it out - I know you have some ideas!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Little Gnome

Here's a little gnome I was making to hang on the Christmas Tree inside a paper mache pine cone for R to find on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, I was discovered just as the finishing touches were put on the gnome. The smile and excitement from R were as irresistable as they would be on Christmas morning, so I surrendered him to waiting hands and he was immediately carried and played with before finding his precious spot on our new (as of today) nature shelf.

I can't wait to see what other treasures will find their way over to this little corner. And, now, I guess I'll have to make this little gnome a little friend to take his place in the pine cone. Darn!

Ready to Blast Off....

We wanted to go to the horse races this morning (well at least, I did). The racetrack was having a umbrella give-away promotion, and since our move this summer, our umbrellas have not surfaced from storage. We need those free umbrellas! So we got there when the gates opened at 10:00. I mistakenly thought we could go see the horses in the barn areas to kill some time before the first race, but that was not allowed. So we hung around, saw some horses in training walked to the paddock area and then we left (as there was still 2 hours before the first race). Off to a nearby children's museum, where the fun commenced...

Playing Astronauts for an hour.

M just finished her rainbow

R just desecrating the rainbow and gleefully showing sister.

And, on to more serious work.

Thank goodness for Children's Museums! And, for the little reasons to go to them!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Fall Meal

Well, I had a fabulous photo of the star dish of the evening - bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. But, my husband's sub-standard (actually my first digital camera from over 10 years ago!) decided to erase the 2 photos I took of this dish. I have a picture of my father-in-law carving it, but it does not show the sheer lucious decadence. Easy and delicious. C said he couldn't taste the bacon in the pork, but as I frequently attest, his tastebuds have been dying off as he's getting older, and unless it has hot-sauce on it, he's not usually a fan. My in-laws loved it as did my finicky, picky young eaters. I'll be making this again.

Luckily, so you can see exactly how wonderful this dish looks, check this out. Kate's pie-in-the-sky blog is fun to peruse. Here's her picture of how it looks. Go check out her site for more lovely tidbits - I spent a happy half hour looking! Her flickr slideshow makes me dream of our next meal!

To round out the meal I made smashed yukon potatoes, french string beans, salad with dried cherries and blue cheese, and a quick apple slices sauteed with cranberries, maple syrup and a squeeze of lemon.


For Dessert: I was short on time and ingredients, so I decided to do meringue cookie kisses with chocolate bits. OOOhhh. My children clamored for more! This recipe was incredibly easy - just one egg white and the results were tremendous! I had halved the recipe, but I recommend you make the full batch, so you won't be caught short. I'll be making these again tomorrow, as I had to promise the little ones that there would be more, and soon! Here's the very easy recipe (I left out the walnuts for my non-nut lovers). You could also add 1 tbsp cocoa powder, put an M&M on the top, sprinkles, whatever you'd like. Here's a photo (taken with my less-than-inspiring camera, but you get the idea....)


2 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated sugar or a bit less - cookies are sweet!
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup good-quality chocolate chopped into small pieces (can also use semisweet chocolate chips)
1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and finely chopped


Preheat oven to 275°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or use silpat.

1. In a medium, clean, grease-free bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually, whipping until peaks are stiff but not dry. Beat in vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts (if using). Drop by generously rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

2. Bake until completely firm and dry, but still white, about 25 minutes; you should be able to lift cookies from pan. Slide parchment onto racks to cool cookies completely.

Hope you try one of these!

Nutella-Banana Muffins

Is there anything better than coming home from school and getting a snack of fruit, milk and a warm muffin? I try at least once a week on Fridays to have a just-out-of-the-oven treat ready for the children. Today, I was out of chocolate chips, but had lots of Nutella (a love of mine from Childhood - thank you, Mom!). So, I thought I'd try using Nutella in my favorite Banana Quick Bread Recipe, and just substitute some Nutella for some of the bananas. The children and their playmates loved them.

1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
Almost 1 Cup unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
Almost 1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 big ole mashed banana
3/4 cup Nutella
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk (or I use regular milk)
1/2 cup veg. oil - or use 1/2 c (1 stick) melted butter
1 t pure vanilla extract

PREHEAT place an oven rack in the lower third of oven and preheat oven
to 325 degrees. Grease and flour or spray with cooking spray four 3 by 5 1/2 inch mini
loaf pans (I sometimes just use one big loaf pan), or you can use muffin pans or mini muffin pans.

COMBINE the mashed bananas, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together right on top of banana mixture. Stir as briefly as possible (so the gluten doesn't develop making the muffins have a dry texture) until no dry flour bits show.

Divide batter evenly between baking pans.

For small loaf pan: Bake for 33 to 38 min. or just until breads spring back when
slightly touched in the center, or when a wooden toothpick inserted in the center
comes out clean.
For Large Loaf Pan: start checking after 50 minutes.
For Regular Muffins: start checking after 22 minutes.
For mini-muffins, check after 15 minutes.

Cool for a bit (if you can wait) and Enjoy!

Autumnal Nature

Fall is here - we have had lovely maple leaves on the ground here for a few weeks. Rory and I spent a happy few minutes collecting leaves at his lovely Waldorf school. After bringing them home, he helped me put them into the phone book to flatten them, then onto a baking sheet and into a low oven to get rid of bugs. Finally, we arranged some of them as a base for our dining table display.

On our coffee table, some candles and acorns (which I'm embarrassed to admit) are from Pottery Barn. These acorns are lovely, fat and round, unlike our local ones that are sharp-ended and narrow (and very un-toddler friendly). Next year, we can bring in the natives.

Rory loves lining these acorns up and, lest you think we might be an only-natural materials family, puts his lego Storm Troopers in there. When I next see him put his guys in the "jungle" I'll snap a pic and post it here.
This morning, I'll try and think of a weekend craft for us to work on. Maybe something with all the pinecones Rory and I collected yesterday (they're the tiny ones from redwood trees that we are lucky enough to have in abundance around here).

Christmas (And, the secret of a spreadsheet....)

OK. Each year I have EVERYTHING related to Christmas for our family saved in many worksheets in one MS Excel document. Sometime around the end of March, I perform a Save As and just rename last years spreadsheet. Then, as the year progresses, I put down thoughts and ideas of what I'd like to give and, yes, to receive (and, you bet, Thomas Keller's French Laundry and his Bouchon cookbook are definitely on my list this year). I just started reading a blog by a woman who cooked everything in the French Laundry cookbook. See her blog, here.

To my spreadsheet, I also add in gifts I've purchased over the year, which saves tons of time (now, if only I could remember where I hid that art set....).

In my Holiday document there are many worksheets, one each for: gift lists, christmas card list, holiday control journal (everything that I want to happen for the holidays - like making ornaments, having a quiet night with a yulelog for the solstice, driving around with hot chocolate to see the holiday lights in different neighborhoods, ideas for treats to make for the neighbors, crafts to make with the kids, and holiday events like the Nutcracker, ice skating, or Tea at the Ritz). I track my catalog and online orders and revel in being prepared. This does take a bit of effort to keep updated, but I feel it saves time in the long run. I just put an x in the first column when I have something completed. And, sorry for the photo on the right, just wanted to give you an impression of what the sheet looks like - it's just very simple.

Right now, I'm working on our Christmas card photo. Unfortunately, I lost my small digital camera this summer during our Alaskan Cruise, and my lovely Sony decided to have a bad card and doesn't work anymore (costs as much to fix as to buy a new one). So, I'm looking for a new camera - any suggestions for one that you love that takes great photos with not much delay between click and capture?

Well, the whole point of all this mad winter rush is to create traditions for my family, right? My children do enjoy the traditions. They love crafting - here's a red felt bird that we did a few years back from - a great website to help get inspired. We've put multi-colored feathers in glass ornament balls and colored tulle, too (almost said tu-tu, there).

And, there is something about pulling out an ornament every year and smiling as we remember making them. We also put these birds on presents as hang tags (we made them a bit smaller).

So, something you do every year is a tradition? Since I enjoy cooking, every year I like to make treats for the neighbors. Last year was gingerbread. This year, I'm thinking of mexican wedding cookies or gingersnaps (still looking for a recipe). And, Martha had a great idea for presentation in a cardstock box you print out, cut, fold and glue. Inexpensive and cute. I was thinking of printing a little christmas greeting with our name & address on a small banner and attaching to the box.

More on Christmas to come (after Thanksgiving, anyway - now I'm just busy finishing the lists). Hope you enjoy your Friday and weekend!

The First

O.K. It's 4 am. Which happens because I usually fall asleep with the children at 8 and wake up at 3 or 4. A perfect time to blog (certainly to start my very first blog). I am a stay-at-home mom with a husband and 3 children (sometimes feels like I'm a mom to 4 children), who loves cooking, crafting for and with the children (sewing, knitting, needle-feltilng, painting, collage-making) and who hates cleaning and laundry (I actually know people who love cleaning and laundry - I just didn't get that gene).

My hopes and dreams for this blog: taking more photos, enjoying greater creativity more often, loving the comments (good and bad), and chronicling these years that are flying by.

To the journey beginning.....

A photo of my children on Halloween with our Flying Crank Ghost that we made ourselves - with help from Grandpa! (thanks, Grandpa!) The ghost looks even spookier in the dark (as do the children - well the little one looks adorably cute any time of day).