Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Before and ... (Ok, Just Before)

Zack's Art Bin is not working for us anymore. It's one of these Ikea bins which has a spot in his room but seldom makes it back there, instead spending most of its time sitting on the kitchen table. Part of the problem is that Zack doesn't really like to dig for his stuff - he'll work with whatever I set out or what's on top, but forgets about the rest. Also, having it always at his elbow on the unused third of the table during meals is bugging James. On the other hand, we really enjoy having his art materials accessible in the family space during the day.

Prompted by organized art photos from this book (which I have mentioned before and will review properly one of these days, really), I tackled his bin today, finding a lot of past paintings and drawings piled up within the supplies.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, UNpacking the bin and stacking things in piles of like items was as far as I got. I did get rid of a bunch of trash. I also took past masterpieces and culled through them (just a little), dating the undated ones by month or season, as best I could remember. While I was at it, Zack narrated older drawings for me, telling me some things about them I'm not sure I knew at the time.

This was about as far as I got when it was time to clean up for dinner. I just barely ordered some things in the bin before James came along and stacked my stacks together and set everything on the floor. Sigh. I guess I have a little re-do to accomplish to get to make any progress beyond what you see here. Do you love how you keep your kids' art supplies? Hopefully, I'll be able to come up with at least a slightly better system, but I'm still trying to figure out what that will be.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Another binder clip

Remember those cool shiny metalic colored binder clips I'm using on our napkins? I really like seeing them (yes, I am obsessed with office supplies).

My sister reminded me I can use them for a recipe card holder while making a dish. I guess it doesn't take much to make me smile because this does it!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vintage Photos

Have you tried this photo editor (click on English in the upper right corner) that makes your photos into a vintage look? I found it from this pretty blog and it's rather fun stuff!

I'm out for the rest of the weekend. Hope yours is wonderful!
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Ranchy, Revisited

Last night James brought home Big Mouth Burgers from Chili's for the two of us to eat after the kids were in bed. Between my meeting with a wedding client and his help with our church's mid-week evening service, grownups had to put off dinner in favor of getting the rest of our tasks done and getting the kids fed and in bed. We don't often eat takeout from regular restaurants (favoring Taco Bell for our takeout!), but it just sounded so good.

Harrumph. Our burgers were odd. The meat patties were in pieces in the burger (did they cut them for a reason? Were these scraps?? And why is one of his pieces way undercooked?), mine wasn't made correctly, his side dish was about a third the normal size, and worst of all, they forgot my Ranch. The ticket that said "SIDE RANCH" was taped to my takeout box with a sticker that said "Made Right by ___________". The sticker blank was not filled out. I guess so! You know what they say about the drive-through. Guess it applies to takeout too.

Now, to Chili's credit, I called them and detailed our meal's problems and they are sending me a $25 gift card. And the manager was extremely nice.

But I still had no Ranch.

I tried a recipe for making Ranch Dressing a bit ago, but I didn't think it was quite right. We ate and enjoyed it, but I found it too mayonnaise-y and not flavorful enough. And I didn't buy more store-bought Ranch because I was going to make it again. I had thought of working on that yesterday but put it off in favor of other things and now I was really sorry. So today I got on the ball and made some.

It's quite good, at least to my taste in Ranch. It's creamy without being too thick or at all watery and has a good flavor. If you try it, let me know what you think! I only used my fresh chives and parsley because they were handy; you could replace them with a teaspoon of the dried version of each.

Ranch Dressing

1 c mayonnaise

2 c buttermilk

1 T fresh chives

1 T fresh parsley

1 t dried dill weed

1 t garlic powder

1 t onion powder

¼ t salt

¼ t ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients well.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Roller Coaster

Is four and a half the start of an emotional age? Or is this just the up and down swing of things? Or maybe this is rubbing off from Mommy.

Because check out what I found on the Magnadoodle today. It says: "I FEL GrAtE I AM TOO HAPPY EVUN ZACK". Yesterday it said " I AM ZACK I AM SaD EVUN SaDR". Apparently he was even sadder than his originally declared sad. A few days ago we heard a lot about how he was "angry and even too angry for myself".

Most recently of all, it was, "Mom, I am stressed." I asked him if he knew what stressed meant and he said, "Yes, it's when all-people are telling you to do stuff". Not bad, really. Certainly feels familiar.

On one hand I think it's pretty great for him to be identifying and expressing emotions. On the other hand, it feels a bit daunting to consider trying to guide him through working out this stuff, considering that I think I might be on the same roller coaster! A while back we started using a pre-set list of choices to deal with overwhelming emotions. For example, we'd say, "when you are frustrated with something, you can (1) take a deep breath and try again (2) ask for help or (3) take a break from it".

Now, what am I supposed to tell him for "stressed"? I think I'd better work on that, for all of our sakes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

We have a winner!

Our random number generator chose Cathy! Congratulations, Cathy, and enjoy your beautiful cards from ArizonaMade!

And for the rest of us, Julie has many beautiful cards available in her shop. She even has a set very similar to this one if you can't stand not to have won them yourself! She had such a set for sale yesterday but they sold immediately, so she worked in the time to make another. Talk about dedication. I'm even told her *husband* helped. Wow. Granted, one could make a case that I'm biased, but doesn't she have a beautiful, crisp style and a great eye for detail?

If you haven't used Etsy (an online market for handmade and vintage items) much, I'll let you know that Julie (and most sellers) will be happy to make you something just to your liking. You do have to create an account, but it's free. Then, in the page for her shop, look for a box in the right hand column titled "ArizonaMade" next to her picture and select the link at the bottom of that box, "Request Custom Item". If you have any trouble, just leave me a comment and I'll help you, seriously. And for this next week, mention Garnish, Deanna, Garnish in your checkout notes and get 25% off! (If you want the discount, don't pay immediately- Julie will send you a revised invoice.)

And finally, I'll leave you with an image of my favorite card, at least my favorite right now:


I know it's a little nutty seeming to some, but waste bothers me. It's just a napkin, but seeing multiples grabbed and tossed for a little wipe or to underlay a piece of toast... well, I start to twitch a little.

I was at a friends house a couple of weeks ago. We ate a quick lunch of leftovers while the kids played and she handed me a cloth napkin. I was halfway through my lunch before I noticed I wasn't using a paper napkin. It seemed very normal and not at all overly-fancied-up. I asked, and it turns out they use cloth for all their meals and might grab something paper if they have a major mess. What a good idea!

I wondered what James would think of such. He enthusiastically declared that if we got to have cloth napkins, we could have placemats, which he wishes to use (why? I don't know). I don't have placemats I like, so until I make these, we decided to try the cloth napkins. After all, I already have a couple of sets that I'm happy to use for everyday. It doesn't cost anything and they don't take up much room in the wash.

I put them out in the napkin holder with a specific binder clip for each of us (aren't these fun binder clips? They're from Staples and in the store you can mix and match your pattern choices). Zack immediately remembered which was his and will grab it himself when he's eating on his own. We decided we could use them again if they seemed "still clean". Otherwise, or at the end of the day, I put them in the wash and grab new ones, not worrying about a matching set. I wasn't sure at first if we'd keep with this, but after doing it for a bit, I think we will.

Pretty low key, but I am loving the difference. I like the feeling of reusing.

(And scroll down to enter the giveaway!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Mom, Sammy is in trouble!
Mom, Sammy is in the cabinet!
Mom, Sammy is ok now!
Mom, Sammy has your magazine!
Mom, Sammy has one of my GeoTrax people!
Mom, MOM, Sammy has a choking hazard!!
Mom, Sammy is ok now!
Mom, Sammy is standing up on the TV cabinet!
Mom, Sammy is trying to reach the TV!
Mom, Sammy is ok now!

I finally see. These are not tattles. They are status updates.

(and scroll down to leave a comment for the handmade cards giveaway, c'mon, do it!)

Monday, March 23, 2009


I'm so excited to offer this lovely giveaway sponsored by Arizona Made!
This is a set of four hand-made thank-you notes. Each main image is different and each is embossed so that you can feel the raised texture. The whole image is raised from the rest of the card, which reads "grateful" in an elegant font. A twine tie, fabric ribbon, and hand-sewn button give texture to the card over the two colors of background flourishes. The interior is left blank for your message. White envelopes are included.
You'll really love using these beautiful notes! To enter, leave a comment on this post. Refer a friend! I'll enter your name again every time someone mentions that you referred them. Winner will be announced on Wednesday evening!

I've had some questions about the comments:
  • There is a comment link right below this.
  • Just "hi" will do, you don't have to say anything profound.
  • You don't need to sign up for any account to leave a comment. My site allows anonymous comments - you can just leave your first name.
  • If you don't wish to leave contact info, just check back after I announce the winner.
  • If you know me and think it would be dorky to enter, it's not and you should still sign up to win. Heck, I wish *I* could win.
  • Just do it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goodbye, little curls

Remember those precious (or ratty, depending on the angle) curls in yesterday's photo? Gone.

I love little baby curls, so fine and soft at the nape of the neck. But they aren't so pretty when crusted with sticky food, tangled in a bib, matted up after sleep, or any of the other situations in which we permanently live. So Sammy, fresh from the rigors of his one year vaccinations, also got a haircut. I kept planning to take him to a kids' haircut place Raegan recommended, but we never had time and the crusty tangle remained. He was so distracted with a particular toy that I just snipped around and took off the mess.

He really didn't notice. Nope. Just me. I had to shed a tear for those curls!

(And did I mention I'm so excited about my giveaway on Monday?)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Few Things

It's fascinating to me watching what Sammy understands. He was enthralled with Zack's train setup. Before the track was assembled, he kept crawling all over it, breaking apart the sections and trying to eat the pieces. There was no evidence that he noticed the toy itself other than separate objects to chew on.

But once the trains were running, he sat still on my lap, eyes wide, head following the path of the train. His hand, resting on my leg, trembled discernibly each time he waited for a train to emerge from a hidden section. I think he could have done that for hours.

OH, and an update on the Spring Craft. No luck. But, hey, there was "spring cleaning" instead:
Just call him Cinderella.

AND, speaking of the first day of spring, did you hear that the White House has started a Kitchen Garden? I am beyond excited at this example being set and its political implications. Now there's some politics I can believe in!

Finally, get ready for a giveaway on Monday. I'm so excited!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Considerate Biscuits

Last weekend we had dinner with friends and there were biscuits that everyone was in a frenzy for. We gobbled them up and wanted more. The very idea of homemade biscuits had everyone clamoring for three and four (and five).

I wanted to make some of my own, but seriously, I could not manage enough time to roll out the dough and cut them. I had a vague memory of "drop biscuits" that don't have to be rolled, so I tried a recipe I found online. Bah. It left a bit to be desired, nothing like the succulent, tender biscuits I remember of my mother's.

I found a different recipe, and also called my mother for hers. She said in general, its just a rolled biscuit recipe with more milk. The problem with her recipe was that I wasn't keen on using shortening (it's the altering chemical structure thing - unappealing). So, I've replaced the shortening with butter and tried it two ways. Both are drop biscuits but there's a little time trade-off so you can customize to the time you have. The slightly slower method has a slightly better texture, but both are quite good. Now isn't that a considerate recipe?

Considerate Biscuits
2 c flour
1 T baking powder
2 t sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 c butter
1 c milk

1. Mix all the dry ingredients.
2. Quicker Method: Melt the butter, add the butter to the milk and combine with dry ingredients.
Better Texture Method: Cut in chilled butter. Add the milk.
3. Drop onto greased pan (I pat it a bit with buttery hands to make it biscuit shaped). They don't change shape much so what you see is what you'll get.
4. Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Is anyone doing something fun for the first day of Spring tomorrow? Like a kid craft or something? C'mon, someone is, I know it. And can I copy? It seems like a fun thing to commemorate (especially since we're working hard to fill up Spring Break and not go batty), but I'm drawing a blank.
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I'm not kidding: we made butter.

As in started with cream and ended up with butter. As Amy said: it was easy. Are you getting tired of hearing that yet? I have felt no end of surprise at how easy these things are to do, things that I had assumed were only really practical for industrial processing. (Easy individually - I'm glad we don't have to always do all of them!)

This took all of 10 minutes. Not even 10 minutes (apparently letting the cream come to room temperature first makes it much faster). I had very little to do with it, as Daddy and Zack were each too anxious for their turn and it was done very quickly.

Homemade Butter
-Put heavy whipping cream (any amount) in a jar or food processor and let it come to room temperature (2 hours).
-Shake (or process) until it turns into butter (5 to 10 minutes).
-Pour of the milk (drink it or whatever) and rinse butter in cold water.

Uh, yeah. That's it.
The cream first looks like whipped cream, then "siezes" into butter and throws off the watery milk. It looks a little like cottage cheese at first but just shake more and it comes together in a lump (can you see the lump of butter in the jar?). Then you can rinse and knead it until the water runs clear to make it keep longer. We rinsed it, but really, we just made a little and then we were all too quick to devour it.

We made it into strawberry butter (gee, strawberries, really?) and put it on homemade biscuits. Mmmmmm, homemade biscuits. Yuuuuummmmy. Recipe tomorrow! (Sorry, I've just got to get to some chores around here!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Strawberries Galore

[If you're here from Kiddio's Kid-Craft Jamboree, welcome! The Fruit Leather recipe is all the way at the bottom and it's a great spring activity with the little ones!]

After the strawberry picking, we had lots of strawberries to deal with. Zack was so tired and so sniffly when we arrived home and he desperately needed a nap. Before going to sleep he asked, then clarified, then asked me to repeat back to him that HE could do the strawberries. I tried to opt for his doing some of the strawberries, but that was not what he was looking for. Since it was supposed to be a fun project for him, I agreed that I would only "get ready" and leave the actual doing for him. I had originally thought that the berries would keep until the next day, but after the ride home and with the mud from the field on them, there was no way they were going to keep. So I got ready doing the prep. The washing was the most time-consuming and challenging step of this whole thing. The mud and sand were crusted in around all the seeds and it was only through floating them in multiple baths of water (hey! another great use for the salad spinner!) and scrubbing each with my fingertips that they got clean.

After being out in the sun, and also due to his sniffles, Zack slept a loooong time. I had thought to leave some of each step for him to try (like being in a cooking show, ha!), but the washing had to get done and it wasn't really practical for him anyway. After the first attempted wakeup I started hulling. I finally woke him again and explained that I would have to go ahead with the strawberries now, but if he wanted to sleep that was ok. He was groggy, but insisted on helping, so he drug himself around to sit and drink some juice. He must have been a little dehydrated (we had water with us, really) because after getting some liquid he was ready to go.

As I mentioned, I wasn't really planning to buy so much fruit, so I had to figure out what it was we were actually doing. While he was sleeping I chose two projects for us: jam and fruit leather. I wrote the jam recipe out in easy-read form so that he could read it (with help). It was a simple recipe - fruit, pectin, a teensy bit of butter, lemon juice, and sugar. I had pectin from a failed jelly attempt a few years ago or I wouldn't have been able to do this on a whim - lucky! I keep canning jars to house occasional gifts, but I've never "canned". I usually just put granola in them and had never tried the sterilizing part. After two cookbooks and three calls to my mother, I had a plan. The sterilizing is rather easy - just like everything else lately, I'm discovering that a lot of intimidating stuff is not so intimidating and doesn't necessarily need special equipment.

Zack was our official strawberry crusher and boy was it a good job for him! This part is done before the heat is even on, so it was nice to let him just go at it. I thought we wouldn't have enough strawberries to make up two quarts into jam... but the first quart barely made a dent so we made the full two quart recipe.
Zack had to step back for the jam pouring - boiling water, boiling hot jars and boiling sugar just aren't kid friendly. But he was excited to see the consistency and color change as the fruit cooked down into syrupy goodness. After pouring it up we had nine jars of jam!

One by one, we heard the lids suction in with a -pop!- and create the final seal - so cool! After we had it poured, James (my own personal naysayer- harrumph!) wondered out loud if it would set up, considering the original project for which the pectin was purchased hadn't. Gasp! I had not even thought of such and hated to think of our beautiful project failing! Late into the evening, the jelly was still liquid and I was worried, but by morning it was a (loose) jelly consistency. And YUMMY!

Meanwhile, we moved on to fruit leather. This had sounded great last week, and what do you know, it was easy too. It's pureed fruit with applesauce, lemon juice and a little sugar. Zack spread it on a plastic lined tray and we left it in a very low oven for five hours (yes, this meant getting up in the middle of the night to turn the oven off - James more than made up for his naysaying moment by doing this little chore!).

When I cut it the next day, it was still too soft in the center. I put it back in, but then forgot to watch it closely (I was reading this interview - who can blame me!) so the very outside edges got more crispy than leathery. I broke them off and ate them. The rest is wrapped into fruit leathers for Zack to discover a little later.

There were still strawberries left, but it was after Zack's bedtime so I send him to bed and made a set of popsicles, smoothies for me and the hard-working hubby, and still had plenty left for eating. Wow! I have to say, this seemed like a homemade extravaganza. Even with each piece being easy, it still added up to a lot of time on our feet actually doing it. It was fun but I don't need to repeat it right away. As we went to bed I couldn't help reflecting to James that all these prairie-cool adventures add up a lot of time. How did people possibly manage all these things? Well, they didn't spend the next day blogging about it I guess!

Here is that promised recipe!
Fruit Leather
4 c. fresh strawberries (or a little less)
1 T lemon juice
1 c applesauce
1/4 c sugar

Puree the berries (it will make about 2 c. puree) and add the other ingredients.
Line a 10x15 in jelly roll pan with plastic wrap.
Pour puree into the pan and spread evenly.
Bake about 5 hours at 200F or until leather pulls away from wrap.

Cut into slices, roll and wrap each in plastic.
Let me know if you make it, or what other fruits you are making into leather!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Strawberry Adventure

Yesterday we went out to Sweet Berry Farms outside Marble Falls, Texas for a great strawberry picking adventure. James' parents are off work on Spring Break this week and invited us to go with them so the kids and I joined them on what turned out to be a really fun day-trip. Last week the weather was cold and rainy, but that all ended on Sunday and by yesterday it was beautifully clear and sunny. It was yet another event that I wouldn't have done on my own but turned out great.

I really hadn't planned on buying very much, but Linda, James' mom, was so excited about the local, organic produce that I got excited too. Plus, I kept thinking how cool it would be for Zack to be able to see the food from the field all the way through to something interesting. Since Linda was talking jam, that started sounding really interesting!

The boys did super. Zack did some picking, with a lot of help and patience from his Uncle Bill. Sammy chilled in the stroller, mostly with good humor. He got to get out later and see the horses, donkeys, and baby goats with Grandpa.

There were several fields, but the best strawberries were in the muddiest areas - as witnessed by my shoes!

I ended up with 6.81 lb of strawberries! And what happened to them, you ask? I'll be reporting on that tomorrow!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009


My son loves his taggy, which I made after being inspired by my nephew loving HIS taggy (and I guess my sister is making pink ones this week!). The fabric is super-soft minky and the ribbons are a variety of textures with plenty of silky satin ribbon to love on!

I have made these for the most recent two close friends having babies. Both of these girls love red, so I chose the red and blue color scheme for their boys. This is a fun little project! Once I got the hang of it it went quickly, and it's rather forgiving (good for my sewing level!).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kids ATC Swap Follow Up

Early this week we received the final of the Kids Artist Trading Cards from the swap! Here is our whole set. Starting at the top, left and going down and across: "Colorful 6" (Zack's that he kept), "I SPY" by Teylan in MT, "ira" by Ira in MO, untitled by Caid in KY, untitled by Hawthorn in PA, and "'M' World" by Mary in MD. All the artists are four years old. I love the bird/whale one by Caid!

This was a lot of fun. I was gearing up for it to be a daunting project but it really wasn't (easy to say in retrospect, maybe, hmm?). Actually, I think it was easy because Zack did all his cards promptly without my having to prod him (unlike our Failed Christmas Thank-you Note Project - sorry, all those who didn't get a thank-you note from us... I don't mean to be a bad person, really...). The real fun was checking the mail - because apparently four year olds are crazy for their own mail!

Blair at Wise Craft and Erin at House On Hill Road set this up - many many thanks to them, especially since it blossomed into a very large logistical project! Zack is already asking me when we're doing this again... maybe annually?? Just a suggestion - I'm not volunteering! :)

I remembered to post the results of this today because I was reading in this book about how as grown-ups we loose the sense of "yes, I'm an artist!" and become people who say "Oh, I can't draw". But we all are artists in one way or another and here it is: Art, from the brushes, markers and crayons of kids!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Favorite

Do you have a favorite cooking tool? I loooove this pan. It's this one, but the thing I like most about it is the stainless steel material. I didn't want to constantly be dealing with cooked-on mess, so I got a nice quality pan, and boy is it great!

In the past year I decided I wasn't so keen on Teflon, for a few reasons. My pans were getting old and the Teflon was peeling off, making it not-so-non-stick and getting flakes in our food. My understanding (sorry, I don't have sources to cite here) is that Teflon is really not good to ingest. Even new pans shed some Teflon (you can't cook for your pet bird even in a new Teflon pan- it will poison the bird).

Also, the crust I can get on my food with a Teflon pan is just not the same. They aren't designed to cook on high temperatures (and as I've started turning into my mom, I've found I like Cooking on High, her specialty). So, I'm really enjoying the nice cripsy results of my pan. And, once I get a bunch of browned bits (uh, Cooks Illustrated points out that it's called "fond") stuck on the bottom of the pan, I can just use a little stock, water, wine or whatever to deglaze the pan and make a quick tasty sauce. By the time I deglaze, clean up is no biggie, and a little Barkeeper's Friend finishes up any stubborn areas.

I loved this pan so much that I found myself cooking in serial - making one item in it, putting it aside to stay warm, then making the next item in my one good pan. So, I asked for and received (yay!) a second size of the same pan for Christmas. One pan great - two pans fabulous!
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I went to check out a new grocery that opened up in South Austin, Newflower Market (I see from the website that this is the same as Sunflower Market in the southwest) after getting sales circulars with some pretty fantastic specials (which were then matched by special "this store only" sales at the nearest HEB). It is mostly fresh items - a large area of produce with a meat counter and some small aisles of mostly organic dry goods. I liked it. There was a lot of organic produce (as an aside, there is an interesting list of good foods to buy organic here), some of it for very good prices. I wish I could remember normal prices for more items, though, because on a lot of things I just wasn't sure.

I was wandering around the store just looking at stuff when a woman asked me about storing ginger. I passed along the really handy tip of peeling it (just scrape with the edge of a spoon) and storing it in the freezer to grate as needed. I ran into the same woman at organic eggs as we compared the price to that at Costco (the same), then again at yogurt. She told me how she makes her own fruit roll-ups / fruit leather by just blending up the fruit, adding applesauce and a bit of sugar, and drying it in the oven! I was telling her how easy it is to make yogurt. I am excited to try fruit leather and she's anxious to be able to make her own yogurt since her son has some allergy issues and she can customize it to him. It was pretty fun to chat with someone interested in exploring making stuff from scratch. I wish I'd gotten her email address or blog address or whatever she has... I bet she know some other cool tips!

Now I'm excited to make fruit leather. James' parents want to go strawberry picking next week. Maybe a good time to try it out?

And while were talking about all this homemade stuff, check out this post on making butter. Butter! Seriously!

And ok, this term "prairie-cool" cracks me up so I'm adopting it. Ta-da, it's a category.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Advice for the Mother-to-be

A dear friend's baby shower is this weekend and we have a little card on which we are supposed to bring advice for the mother-to-be. In general, I ought to be stopping myself from giving advice, not encouraging myself. It's so hard to not be be a jerk when advice-giving, for one thing. One person's "encouraging" is the next Mamma's "disapproving" or "bossy" and vice versa. And what I can relate to depends so heavily on the situation of the moment. One day everything looks sunny and I can't remember the times when life is so hard; the next everything is falling apart and I can't imagine getting it together. And really, do I want there to be written evidence of my advice?

But, I hate to be a party pooper so I'm trying to work on it. I think everyone knows in their head that just loving your children is more important than all of the "how"s. But do you find that "just love them" doesn't cut it on the rough days? Are there things that bring us peace when we don't think we're doing a good job? As I'm thinking about the essence of what made baby two so much easier than baby one, I'm thinking of these things:
Remind yourself that you are doing a good job. Everybody worries about not doing it right and nobody has it all together - even if it looks like they do.
Ask for help. Accept help when it's offered. You don't need to "accomplish something" today. Caring for the baby IS accomplishing something.
It doesn't hurt the baby to cry for a few minutes. If it breaks your heart, try reminding yourself that it's normal. If it doesn't break your heart that's just fine; you are still a good mom.
If nothing is working, take the baby outside. If nothing else, you can be waiting in the driveway when someone else arrives home.
Talk to the baby and narrate the day.
Take some moments just for yourself.
I guess those are the things I tell myself.


I'm amending this post to tell you what they did with the advice, since it was such a neat idea! They had a prepared eight by eight inch scrapbook (simple pages - decorative paper with one embellishment in most cases, possibly from a kit). Each page had a spot marked to put your 4x6 card with your advice. The cards themselves had a decorative border so they added to the look. You slipped your own card into a page when you arrived, so that by the end of the party, they had a complete album to send home with Mommy-to-be! It was neat to flip through and read people's advice. I love that it was ready to go at the time of the shower, rather than having to be put together later.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Ok, I admit it, I am ridiculously excited about this craft! I think I'm more excited than Zack. Possibly it's that without any daughters I don't get my proper fix of tiny and cute? Even so, Zack's pretty excited too. We made shrinky dinks out of recycled plastic!

Did you do shrinky dinks as a kid? I remember they were cool but not much else about them. A while ago I saw on a blog that #6 plastic is shrinky dink raw material. When we came home from lunch on Monday with some #6 takeout boxes (finally!!), I went back to look for instructions. I couldn't find the post I first saw [here it is!], but I did google it and there are lots of examples and tips out there.

I drew an outline drawing of a frog for Zack to color in. Then he drew his own drawing of a person. When he saw me making a butterfly, he wanted to make one too. Then when I was cutting out the colored designs, he needed entertainment, so I made his name in bubble letters for him to color. So, we just played around drawing and coloring. After shrinking, everything came out about a third or a quarter of the original size and so cute. I have 47 half-baked (groan) ideas for stuff to use shrinky dinks on!

Here's the full instructions:
  1. Save those thin, clear, stiff #6 plastic takeout boxes and cut out the flat parts (the other parts work too if you have ideas for what to do with them).
  2. Draw (or trace coloring books to color in) and color designs with Sharpies on #6 plastic. (We put the foil for later right on the table, wrapping it around the front edge to protect the table from those Sharpies.) If you are going to want to thread the finished product on something, punch a regular size hole.
  3. Cut out your design.
  4. Lay it on a piece of foil (or parchment) and bake in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for about 2 minutes. It will curl up and then fall back mostly flat. Flatten (or shape) immediately before it cools (before you set the foil on a cool counter) if you want it flatter (and clearly, don't burn yourself, yada yada).
  5. Eeeeee! So cute!
- Preparation rating: Maybe 20 minutes to dig out the Sharpies from where they were hidden from the children, find a couple cute shapes to trace, and cut up the box. Pretty easy.
- Cleanup rating: 5 minutes to toss the scraps and re-hide the Sharpies. Very easy.
- Trouble to payoff rating: Very good. No mess, no drying time, baking time is fun to watch, cools very quickly, pieces are not fragile.

I was a little concerned about toxic fumes before I did this, but it really seemed fine. Way less fume-y than, say, microwaving in a styrofoam container (not that I want to do that, yuck).


Ugh. My crafty excitement has collapsed. We had a cutie little morning with everything going well, when I realized I have double-booked myself for a family vacation (and was one click away from plane ticket purchase) and coordinating a wedding. Then the baby woke up and I realized that I was out of kiddo naptime and completely unprepared with the work I was supposed to do for a church meeting tonight. Now the baby is crying because he can't chew his apple, I'm trying to accomplish something, and Zack is running in circles, wanting undivided attention again.

Insert musical collapsing-wind-down-crashing sounds here. But don't let that ruin your crafty fun...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Stuck in the Middle With You

Sammy was stuck inside the barstool and UNhappy about it until Mom thought it was cute. When the camera came out, so did his smile. Then it got so funny that he decided to take the show on the road, walking with his barstool-walker!
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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Plant a Tree

Zack working hard

On Saturday Zack and James joined the volunteers at our local park for It's My Park! day. There were 240 trees planted in our park alone. Apparently there were 2,500 volunteers at 60 parks planting thousands of trees all over the city! It was such a simple thing to go along and do, but I'm amazed when I see the whole effort of which it was a part.

Sammy and I followed Zack and James around with Sammy in the stroller and me keeping him entertained.

Zack really wanted to do the digging - good thing they had machine-dug (or loosened?) the holes ahead of time! It would have been impossible for him to make any headway in to the dirt if it hadn't been worked beforehand. James tried to dig a bit and then load him up a shovel-full to lift out of the hole, but he was having none of that. He said Dad should really finish the bit he started and then turn over the shovel for Zack to have a turn. The organizers were very patient and relaxed about our pace, even when it was noticeably slower than the pace of the tree planters around us. We took special note of the two trees the guys planted so that we can see what they look like over time.

I'm really proud of James for going and doing these kinds of things. I tend to believe that it's too difficult, but it wasn't and it didn't take all day. Zack got to participate in something larger and we made some connections within our own neighborhood. Good stuff.

Sammy being supportive

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mmm, Ranchy.

We love Ranch at our house. Well, Zack loves Ranch at our house. I love Ranch at restaurants. Why is it always soooo much better at restaurants? Maybe this is a little strange, but whenever I bring leftovers home from Chili's, I have them bring me a little to-go cup of Ranch too. Our bottled versions from the fridge just can't compare. I've switched brands but it doesn't help. They aren't as good as the restaurant ones. I've asked at restaurants what they use but even at Chili's, they make it in-house. I had tried making Ranch from a little packet and it was fine, but it wasn't great.

Then Friday, I was at a friend's house flipping through a cookbook at noticed how many dressing recipes were in it. So I decided to try it from scratch. I said it about applesauce and I'll say it again: well, duh. It is not hard at all. I don't know why I thought it would be. There aren't that many ingredients. I used fresh parsley, well, just to use some up. But the recipe called for dried so even if I hadn't had fresh I would have had everything on hand. I thought the recipe was a little heavy on mayo taste (I love mayo, but Ranch shouldn't taste quite that much like mayo). If I fine-tune it, I'll post the recipe.

Even so, there isn't much of this batch left! Mmmmm....

Thursday, March 05, 2009


I'm nothing less than thrilled to report that Zack has a preschool for next year! This has caused me a bit of angst the past week or so. I had thought I would keep him at his current school. We're happy with the program and while it's a bit far from our house, it's on our way at least half the time. But, when I mentioned it, James reminded me that we had thought that we would increase the number of days he goes to school this last year before kindergarten. It had sounded like a fine idea when he was two and I needed a break. But now that he's four and on the verge of school... But James wanted me to at least look into it, so I said ok. After all, Zack has been stalking around at home, wanting more kids to play with.

I had a day chosen to look into it, but I ended up doing some research into some other stuff (which we haven't followed up on, *sigh*), then I got busy with Sammy's party and didn't work on it again. Finally, I got back on task with the preschool thing. I found several programs and sent a lot of emails, but I discovered that most three-day programs are (well, duh!) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I have a Bible study on Tuesdays so if I continued that he would be down to only ONE weekday at home.

I woke up in the middle of the night upset about the idea of him being gone so much when he's already going to be in school next year. I couldn't sleep thinking about it. I tossed and turned and prayed and woke up James. By morning I was convinced I want him to stay in two-day preschool. I could provide more learning opportunities at home than I have been.

I went in to register him but they were full. Not just full but already had a waiting list. NOW I was upset in the other direction, thinking about him not getting into any program! He loves school. He's a social kid, always wanting to go go go and to learn. I hated the thought of screwing up and not having him a spot.

I finally heard back from a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday program at another school that had been my first choice when I started him at his current school (he hadn't gotten past the waiting list there at the time). They end an hour earlier, which is not great for Sammy's nap schedule, but I think it will be really good for Zack. More days but not many more hours. He's excited; I'm relieved.

Meanwhile, this has gotten me thinking that I can really be doing more projects with him. He's old enough to be able to do a bunch of the stuff that was just too frustrating when he didn't have the dexterity or the concentration to try it. So, I've been trying to pull a few projects out, particularly during Sammy's nap.

Yesterday, it was playdough. I wrote the recipe very simply so that with a little help Zack could read it and tell me what he needed. I helped him measure but he got to do a lot of it.

Need the recipe? Here is our easy-read version!
Mix in a pan:
1 c flour
1 c water
1 t cream of tartar
1/2 c salt
1 T oil

Cook and stir 3 minutes until it gums up.

Knead in food coloring.

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