Monday, February 28, 2011

Black Eyed Pea Chili

image source
If Tim is ever offered a final meal, this is it. Black Eyed Pea Chili. The recipe yields 6-8 servings, and it usually takes Tim two days to devour the leftovers. Best part of this hubby pleasing soup, it's so easy. I made it last night for our middle school volunteers and had several requests for the recipe, so I thought I'd just share it with all my readers.

Note - This recipe was passed down to me from my wonderful momma. I want to make sure she gets due credit.

1 lb. sausage, browned and drained (I use italian turkey sausage, but I grew up with regular pork sausage)
3 14 oz. cans of unseasoned black eyed peas, drained
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 t oregano
1 t rosemary
Salt to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot with lid and simmer until flavors meld - about 30 minutes. Or place in crock pot and heat on low for 2-3 hours (high for 1 hour).

Top with your favorite chili accoutrements: shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, etc...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anyone know a good potty dance???

Potty training starts this week - Ugh. I feel somewhat defeated before we even start, which is very unfair to Gwennan. She picks up on things very quickly, and I'm sure potty training will be no exception.

In case you're trying to count back to October and figure out how old Baby G is, she's 16 months tomorrow. Go ahead, call me crazy for attempting to potty train a 16 month old. I've now been called crazy for a year over our parenting decisions (that's what happens when you have babies a year apart)

My motivation - diaper rash. I think I've whined about Gwenny's diaper rash before. You'd think the diaper fairy would bless us for my effort with cloth diapers, but no. Her teeny bum has been dotted with bleeding sores since Christmas. Even the pediatrician can't get rid of her rash. At this point, the only way to clear it up - get rid of the diaper! Bring on the potty chair.

All that to say, I feel the need to warn you - please, don't expect great things from me this week, maybe this whole month. With a timer alerting me every 20 minutes to take another trip to the bathroom, I just don't see myself getting a ton of work done. Heck, I'm not sure I even see myself cooking a real dinner this week. Our family appreciates your patience and your prayers.

On a somewhat related note, Gwenny discovered her pint size rocking chair. She cracks us up climbing into it, so I thought I'd share. Check out that right leg - she is one flexible kid.

A final note - Thank you Michelle for the encouragement! You're my inspiration.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hair Icon

Whenever I'm asked the question, "Who would you meet if you could meet anyone in the world," I always come up with some super sweet or spiritual answer like "my grandfather who died before I was born" or "the Apostle Paul." But my honest answer, at least this week...

Katie Holmes' Stylist

Katie Holmes is such a cute momma! She actually looks like a mom, not like so many Hollywood stars who look like women who had a baby at some point then never saw them again. I picture her wiping drool off her shirt on her way to the park.

I always want to use Katie Holmes as my doppelganger, but that would probably cause a "ha - wishful thinking" reaction. Besides the haircut, we look nothing alike. In fact, outside of the first name, baby girls with unusual names and super hot husbands, we really have nothing in common (and I totally beat her with the husband thing, as my hot hubby is not CRAZY).

If I can't actually look like her, I can at least borrow her stylist, right?
This pixie cut is to die for. What mom doesn't want to look this cute with no styling?!
Sorry for the celebrity drivel. I just cut my hair, and I like it, but it would be really nice to have someone professionally style it for once. Thus, I'm a little pouty. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Minky Baby Hat

Yesterday was cold, really cold and windy - yuck. Gross weather for a walk, but we walked nonetheless. Our outing pressed the need for a new hat for Baby A. She's outgrown the many mini hats I knitted before she was born, leaving us with two light cotton options. Not good choices for freezing temperatures. So I endeavored to make a quick, warm hat out of super soft minky.

This pattern creates a double thick hat so that the soft right side of the fabric is against baby's head.  Even taking pictures for the tutorial, I only spent an hour on this project - perfect for last minute baby shower gifts or a quick evening sewing fix. This hat will fit an average 3 month old. If you want to adjust it for an infant, only change the width. You can always roll the brim more. For an older child, increase the width and length.

You will need:
At least 1/4 yard of minky or some other stretchy fabric - fleece, jersey, interlock, etc... Don't forget to iron first!
Coordinating thread
Sewing machine with zig zag stitch capabalities
Basic sewing supplies - scissors, iron, pins
Baby hat for use as pattern. I explain how to make a pattern if you don't have a baby hat.

Start by folding your fabric in half length wise. Then situate the baby hat on the fabric 3" from the fold. I didn't want the top knot, so I rounded off the top when I traced the hat.

Trace the hat extending the line from the side down to the edge of the fold. Cut out your fabric with 1/2" seam allowance. Repeat, creating two long oval pieces once unfolded. You can use your first cut piece as a pattern for the second as seen here:

If you don't have a baby hat, don't despair.  The basic shape can be created by drawing two parallel lines, 5" long and 9" apart, starting at the fold of the fabric. Connect the two lines with a half circle. The half circle can be drawn freehand or with a compass set at a radius of 4.5". Cut along the line; these measurements includes your seam allowance.

Next, lay the pieces flat and pin right sides together.

Minky is reputed as a difficult fabric to work with because it's slippery, stretchy and dense. In my experience, it needs two things: a sharp needle and lots of pins. Pin the fool out of this fabric. I practically basted mine with pins. If the fabric is pulling or snagging, you probably need a new needle. I don't suggest a ball point needle as this fabric is somewhat difficult to puncture.

Using your 1/2" seam allowance, sew the two pieces together, leaving a 1" opening.

Remove the pins and turn the fabric right side out, pulling it through the opening. Close up the opening then iron flat.

Not seeing a hat yet? Watch this. Use your hand to tuck the "prettier" curved end into the other (one of my curved pieces held the flat seam from the opening).

Iron flat. Pin the two rounded edges together then stitch around the top edge, picking up both layers of the hat. By doing so, you hold the two layers of the hat together.

Using a zigzag stitch, sew a flat seam around the bottom edge of your hat. The zigzag is important so the hat can stretch around baby's head.

Turn the hat right side out, roll the brim, and Ta Da! your hat is finished. 

If you want to embellish it, remember a few things. The brim is turned, so you need to add the embellishment to the inside bottom edge. It will show when you roll the brim. Also, if you use a static feature like ribbon, only add it to the front. Otherwise, your hat won't stretch around baby's head.

Baby A was pleased to model for us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pineapple Blueberry Muffin

Gwenny is at an awkward food phase. She wants to feed herself, and she doesn't have molars. Veggies are a real problem. Breakfast and lunch are pretty manageable, but we have problems around dinner, especially when we go out. I need something I can just grab and go as a back up if we can't find suitable food. My solution: frozen muffins.

Not just any muffins. I want whole grains, protein and veggies involved. So I created these today. I used oat flour for the additional iron and protein. Also, molasses instead of refined sugar gives these muffins extra calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. I included carrots to sneak in a veggie and nuts for more protein.

It's a lot of ingredients, but these are meals in a muffin! Seriously, they leave nothing out.

1 c oat flour (make from whole rolled oats and a food processor or coffee grinder)
1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c flax seed meal
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 medium carrots, grated (or finely chopped, if you already have the food processor out from the oats)
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple with juice
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c milk
1/2-3/4 c molasses (you could use same amount of honey or 1/2 c brown sugar)
1 t vanilla
1 t grated orange zest (delicious, but unnecessary)
2 c fresh or frozen blueberries
1 c chopped nuts (I use pecans because I'm allergic to walnuts)

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine dry ingredients and whisk together. Then mix in carrots and pineapple.
Beat wet ingredients in a large bowl, then mix in dry ingredients. Lastly, stir in blueberries and nuts. Mix as little as possible for fluffy muffins.
Grease muffin tin and fill cups with 1/4 c of batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.

The most difficult part - putting them in the freezer to eat another day. Gwenny and I could easily eat six of them right now. :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

ReStyle It - TV Amour

Finally, a new post.

Sorry for the neglect. We had a weird weekend, one of those weekends that starts on Wednesday (migraine followed by furniture restoration). This was our backyard this weekend:

This mess took three days to clean up. :/ Hence, the blog's neglect. But... the television is no longer the focus of our living room. Yay!

Tim's oversize, always-in-disarray amour was no longer needed thanks to the 1850's primitive dresser he found, so I claimed it for the living room. Our TV used to balance on an awkwardly small stand that barely held the DVD player and Xbox. Now it's hidden behind doors along with all the overly complicated electronics.

We bought this bedroom suite five years ago when we got married. It was literally the only set we could afford (a.k.a. cheapest we could find). The description was "country cottage." Our house doesn't really have the country cottage feel, so I decided to ReStyle the cabinet to fit the living room.

I used a shabby chic technic to create a distressed look to this cabinet. I started by painting several colors along the edges of the cabinet (it looked slightly camouflaged at this stage). Then, I covered it in a flat black that matches our other furniture. Finally, I sanded the edges so the other colors show through. Now the cabinet looks intentionally used rather than freshly painted.

A piece of advice that I learned the hard way: cover your work in clear polyurethane. Nothing is more frustrating than chipping your freshly painted furniture as you carry it into the house. Our dining room set needs a repaint because I didn't do this.

I'm really excited by how much cleaner our living room looks now that we can cover up the TV. And the old tv stand... we put it by the curb, and someone picked it up the same evening. We have some serious junkers who stalk our neighborhood. They'll grab anything we put on the curb. It's nice to know the piece didn't go straight to the landfill.

If you're wondering where the girls were, they enjoyed the gorgeous weather with us.
Baby A slept in the sun
While Baby G started the morning in tears...
Our sweet bunny cheered her up and...

All smiles

Hope you enjoyed your weekend, too!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crib Skirts

Our girls are officially roomies now. We found a crib for Afton and moved her in last week. For some reason, the move triggered a mini nesting streak in me. I wanted crib skirts. Not sure why I had to have them now. Gwenny has gone a year without one. Now that we have two cribs, their naked undercarriages just would not do.

So, I pulled out the Brother, dug through my fabric stash and came up with all the needed materials for this crib skirt (why reinvent the tutorial when Star wrote such a lovely one already). I spent all Friday and Saturday evenings hunched over the sewing machine (hence the burning along my shoulder blades today), but the skirts were so worth it.
Side by side cribs - I love having Irish twins.
Seeing them sleeping next to each other makes my whole body smile. I know their concept of "sister" is pretty immature now, but this is just the beginning of great things to come!
A close up of the new crib skirts
The peek-through effect is so nice on this pattern.
I chose this fabric to tone down the "babyish" feel of a nursery. It doesn't have to be all pastels.
For the rest of the room:
Tim found this amazing antique dresser when he found our new desk. All it needed was a little wood conditioner.
The tea party table - more to come on this ReStyle It project 
Found this at World Market. They are so cute and match the room perfectly. Gwenny loves to ring the bells at the end.
In the same World Market line - an elephant fan pull. We're constantly lifting G up to play with the hanging pachyderms.
I heard somewhere that any project boils down to three aspects: time, scope and money. You can only be deficient in one area. When it comes to our house, my decorating schemes encompass a lot of scope but we have a small budget. That necessitates that I take my time, collect pieces slowly, make items when I can, etc... until I meet my vision. The girls' room took a step forward this week. I'm itching to continue improving our home, making life more comfortable and hospitality easier.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our "new" desk

The closest we get to celebrating V Day -
leftover cookies from small group
Happy Valentine's Day!

This is one of the best V days I've had in a long time. I'm drinking ice coffee with the windows open in February!! Brilliant. Sorry for doubting you, Puxatawny Phil.

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'd like to brag on my hubby, the bearded wonder.  When he's not working or playing with our girls (before we had babies, I didn't recognize the art of play), DH loves to work with wood. He's had a workshop for years and has built all sorts of stuff, like our composter. Recently, thanks to Mike and Frank on American Pickers, he started "mantiquing." This week, he dug this 1940's beauty out of a shop's back room for $12

We forgot to take a "before" shot. Sorry. You'll have to take my word that it was in really rough shape when DH brought it home. The finish on the top was ruined, it was filthy and the left side was falling off. Tim worked diligently this weekend sanding, cleaning, sealing and polishing. I did nothing but match the polyurethane.

The details of our new workspace:
Gorgeous original pulls
Our awesome M&M speakers by TerraCycle
They don't fit the "antique" category, but we're not going for a museum showcase
I was able to upcycle wax coated containers into pencil holders that match our decor.
My favorite accessory, orchids
Thank you Sweetie for doing such a wonderful job rescuing and restoring this forgotten treasure. You take such good care of me. I love you dearly and feel so blessed to be raising our sweet babies with you. Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An apology


I'm sorry.

I'm sorry for bleeding, peeing, urping or otherwise soiling your clothes on your way to church.

I'm sorry for scraping my arm along craft store displays, scattering buttons across the floor.

I'm sorry for going limp when you were carrying me, Emily, your purse and two bags of groceries.

I'm sorry for screaming so loudly when you put on my shoes that you feared someone would call DCS.

Love, your-oldest-daughter-whose-now-a-mom-and-feels-really-bad-about-what-I-did-to-you.

We've had one of those days, the kind when I feel the need to apologize to my mom for being a child.

Even more so, I feel the need to apologize to God. The other day Gwennan pitched a full-on, out-of-her-mind fit when I took a muffin out of her hand so I could put on her jacket. At first her total distrust of me hurt my feelings. I've done nothing to deserve such scrutiny. A few minutes later, it occurred to me that Baby G is just doing what comes naturally. I do the same thing but to God, which is so much worse. I yell at Him for the way He's taking care of me when He is doing so perfectly. Parenting is so humbling.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What I'm Reading

Baby, it snowed outside. The girls and I are stuck inside again.

If I had nothing else to do, I would make a huge pot of tea and read, curled up in our big blue papasan chair. But really, who can afford such self-indulgence?

It got me thinking about the books I love right now, and I thought I'd share.

For G:

  • The Jesus Storybook Bible - amazing. No, AMAZING!! Tim and I enjoy this one as much as Gwennan. In fact, the other day, I closed it after reading the 10 plagues and said, "This is the best book. Wait, this really IS the best book."
  • Is Your Mama a Llama - I love the rhymes in this one. It's so sing songy that G bobs when we read it,
  • The Belly Button Book - "beebo." Who wouldn't love a story about hippos and their belly b's?

For Me:

  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - We watched Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" the other day, so I wanted to read Lewis Carroll. Not sure where Tim Burton came up with the plot of his movie, but I rather liked it. Alice in Wonderland was a reread from my college children's lit class, and I enjoyed it, again. This was my first time with Through the Looking Glass, and well, it was odd.
  • A Study in Scarlet - The first adventure of Sherlock Holmes. I just started this one, and I love Doyle's writing style as well as his cooky characters. In case you think my taste random, it is a little bit. I'm on a classics streak right now because they are free to download to my phone (love public domain!!), and my phone is the most portable, easiest to use while nursing  reading device I have.
  • Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe - I've been working on this one for a while because it's just too meaty to read in one sitting. Fantastic book that covers the foundations of Christian belief.
That's my reading list during this cold month. What are you reading???

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ReStyle It - Castro Cap

With my recent ADD approach to the blog's design, you might have missed this button:

Please, check out the project. It's a great idea - turning stuff you don't use into stuff you want. I became interested in restyling after reading Michael Sleeth's Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action (great book - I highly recommend for anyone interested in greening up their act). I'm challenging myself to repurpose items I no longer use or enjoy. My plan: make ReStyle It posts a weekly feature.

My first "official" ReStyle is this castro cap from Camelbak:

The hat's style is good, and it was a cute fix for crazy short hair days. But I like to leave skulls to pirates, poison and bikers. Time for something more feminine.

I found this Andy Warhol inspired print (in the remnant bin!) - not something I'd make a shirt out of but a terrific accent fabric.

The bright colors reminded me of flowers without being overtly floral. This is how I made fabric flowers:

1. Heat up iron.
2. Cut fabric into a long strip at least 1.5" wide and 8" long. The longer and thinner the strip, the flatter the flower will lay. For a more cup like flower, cut a wider, shorter strip (what I did).
3. Fold in half length-wise and iron flat.
 If you are planning on attaching this to a garment that will be washed, use fray check or bind the cut edges before moving on to the next step.
4. With a coordinating thread, hand sew a running stitch along the cut edge. Don't be put off by the phrase "hand sew." I'm learning to love hand sewing because it is quiet and portable. I'm not signing up for a hand pieced quilt any time soon, but I'll eagerly tackle a small project or tailoring job.
5. Pull the running stitch tight so that the fabric bunches then sew the edges together, creating a circle.
Time to attach:
If your flower is supposed to lay flat, iron first.
6. Attach the flower by sewing just around the gathered stitch. Use a running stitch, making sure you include all fabric layers.
I added an additional, smaller flower in the center for more texture and covered the center stitching with a bead.
The finished product:
I was so excited the next day when I woke up with crazy hair and had an excuse to wear my "new" hat.

Whether or not you agree that I improved the hat, I hope you will at least take the inspiration to alter something in a ReStyle It project of your own.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


My sister specializes in bugs on her pottery.
I need a huge venus fly trap. Not so large it will take on the neighbor's dog (although I wouldn't complain if a plant ate our neighbor's Camaro). Just large enough to handle a big gnat problem. Admittedly, I'm not the most fastidious house cleaner, but my pride is hurt when guests swat in the air at gnats threatening their noses.

They came in with the house plants. You think you're doing a good thing by increasing the oxygen in your home, adding a bit of green to the house, only to be repaid with fungus gnats. At least, I think they're fungus gnats. They're not fruit flies. I'm well acquainted with them. In high school, someone broke a jar from the fruit fly experiment. They swarmed the hallways for years.

The internet says I have fungus gnats that live in the fungus laden soil from Lowe's. They're described as "harmless." Really? Then why did God include them in the 10 plagues? I don't mean to questions God's judgement, but I think mosquitoes would have been more effective than gnats.

Whatever they are, I'm done with them. This is war! (For effect, please hum "War Pigs" as you finish this post). I've looked up a few home remedies, and most of them sound quacky. Rub lemon juice around your pots?? Leave vinegar in a jar with holes in the lid. The fruit flies will crawl in and get stuck. Why can't they find their way out if they found their way in??

Forget it. I'm going to Lowe's for plant fungicide and gnat spray. Because let's be honest - I'm only organic until it gets really annoying.

I was going to write about my crafty ReStyle project today but iPhoto and Safari aren't talking, so my pictures are stuck in limbo. Tomorrow. I promise a better post tomorrow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sticky Business

I have to take a minute to laugh at myself. Everyone tells you to just let the housework go after you have a baby. I realized this weekend that if you have the energy to make the mess I made, you need to find the energy to mop!

This weekend's project was a bit of a debacle... Marmalade.

At Christmas, I received all the works for canning from my totally awesome MIL (I'm not kissing up - she's awesome! She lived with us for 2 weeks after my C-section). Don't know what got into me, but I decided I needed to make marmalade out of all the delicious citrus available.

Off to the Ball Blue Book (which I always want to call the "blue ball" book, giggle). 

The canning went beautifully. It was simple and easy and clean. The jelly making, however, was a disaster thanks to my over-ambitious dive into canning. 
What I learned:
1.) If you're going to can for the first time, try something easy like applesauce or cold-packed peaches in fruit juice, not marmalade! Canning is pleasant, but there is some learning curve.

2.) Pectin is really hard to find, at least in February. DH finally found some in Richmond. Then he could only find the powdered variety. Which leads to my next lesson...

3.) Powdered and liquid pectin take vastly different quantities. Oops. I literally have to carve my first batch because I added too much pectin. It's about as spreadable as a Jello Jiggler.

For the second batch, I chose a recipe that didn't require pectin. I learned my fourth and most important lesson.
4.) Boiling sugar water to the "gelling point" is a lot like the Iraq War. First, I naively thought it would be quick. As it dragged on and on, I kept telling myself that I was making progress, and it would be finished any minute now. When I felt like I'd spent too much time on the endeavor, I gave up and removed it from the heat. The result: you'd better hold the bread exactly level otherwise the marmalade rolls right off. Don't know what that says about Iraq...

Holding a roll perfectly level :)


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