Friday, April 29, 2011

I've Sewn, Therefore I'll Tell

I have needed to sew lately. Needed.
But I've had difficulty finding time.
I did manage to squeeze in one other project recently for Liesl's challenge.

Fortunately, Amy and Sarah have motivated me to make another project before the end of the month - Amy, because she now only does Sew & Tell once each month; and Sarah, because she's having a baby.

It's so nice to have another reason to make a nursing cover. Sarah's little boy is due next month, so I wanted to be sure to get this cover made for her before we really become entrenched in our moving preparation.

I wanted to try something new for the pocket. I think this took care of it.

My life is so different now that I know how to use my embroidery machine. It's almost as amazing as my Vita-Mix.

Many thanks to Caelyn for modeling the features for me. One day I hope to make one of these for her.  Of course, she'll have to get married first; but I digress.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Giveaway

If you've ever visited Liesl's blog, you already know that she is talented, adorable, and generous.

She's hosting a giveaway of the overflow from her creative corner of the world.
Stop on by and show her some support and gratitude!

Food, Glorious Food!

I've been trying to broaden my family's food horizons lately. I've decided to utilize some of my dustier cookbooks, along with a food blog or two. 

These parmesan/spinach Napoleons on filo came from an old Williams-Sonoma cookbook that I've had for a while. 
I found it on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble a few years ago, but it's anything but a bargain now on amazon.

The flavor was good, but they seem a bit labor-intensive for how quickly we devoured them. 
These served as our lunch yesterday. 
Kudos to Caelyn and Morgan.

In keeping with my vegetarian exploration, I chose Polenta Lasagna with Gorgonzola Bechamel Sauce for dinner, from the same cookbook.
Again, the girls brought this together while I busied myself with other things.

If you don't own any Le Creuset cookware, stop what you're doing, go out, and buy some.
If you think it's too expensive, here are some ways you can afford to buy yourself a piece of Le Creuset:

1. Take a month off from going out for coffee. 
(OK. Maybe two months.)
2. Ride your bike instead of burning gas.
3. Don't rent movies for a while.
4. Cancel your magazine subscriptions.
5. Eat beans and rice more often.
6. Have a yard sale.
7. Start your own ironing service for the corporate execs in your neighborhood. 
(Hey! I should try that...)
8. Stand at an intersection with a dog & a cardboard sign.

Your grandchildren will thank you. 
'Cause these will still be around for them to use.

*   *   *   *

While the girls worked on the polenta dish, I moved on to something that would keep the men happy.
After all, where food is concerned, I tend to straddle the fence.

Mmm... Doesn't that fatty bacon grease look finger-licking good?

Meanwhile, the girls were making progress...

Now why haven't I ever thought to shred the vegetables for lasagna?

Certain members of the family were skeptical about this meal, but I saw many hands reaching for seconds.

Morgan made a sauce for the bacon-wrapped asparagus. The recipe came from Martha Stewart Living, originally, but Mo made it slightly more healthful:

1/2 C yoghurt
(ours is homemade)

2 tsp Sriracha sauce 
(We used a similar sauce purchased at our favorite Lebanese market.)

2 T plus 1 tsp fresh lime juice

1 T plus 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

And for dessert...

Our friend, Jon, had spent the day with us, as he often does. When I took a plate of these Chocolate Power Bar Balls downstairs for Craig and him to sample, they weren't sure what to expect.

If you 1.) love chocolate, 2.) don't like/have time to bake, and/or 3.) want a less guilty dessert option, then this is the dessert for you. It literally only takes a few minutes to whip up a batch of these in the food processor.

NOTE: I used pecans, instead of walnuts.

CAUTION: My hands were very sticky after rolling these into balls.

BONUS: I got to lick ALL of my fingers, plus the palms of my hands afterward.

By the way, there wasn't one left when we were finished.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blessed Day

One of the perks of homeschooling is that we have the option of taking our work outside whenever the beautiful weather calls to us.
We've had intermittent storms rolling through here lately, as has much of the country; but in calm moments, the sun has shone gloriously.

When we lived in Alabama, we would often do our school work on the back patio or in the yard. I'd sit on the hammock with my binoculars, nature journal, and bird & insect guides, and the children would surround me with their school books.
I'd read aloud to them from my perch, taking frequent breaks to photograph or observe a particular bird or butterfly.
Each day, one or another of the children would take a turn sitting on the hammock with me, while the others sat on a blanket or at the patio table.

Sweet memories.

Yesterday and today, we've taken advantage of some choice moments to spend on the patio with our school books.
Rhodes has been pleased to join us.
He even afforded us an occasion to meet a neighbor yesterday.

Jill was very calm as Rhodes, ignoring the warnings from the shock collar, rushed to meet her little dog in the street.
It was a pleasant encounter, and no animals were hurt in the process.

Speaking of Rhodes, he has a new friend, sort of. This little guy recently moved next door to us from Slovakia:

Apparently, he's a mixture of Schnauzer and Vizsla. I don't know his name, but he greets me through his new fence when I park in the driveway.

It's been wonderful to see the leaves taking shape little by little.

A special bonus yesterday was having my parents pay us a spontaneous visit. This is a privilege we'll certainly miss when we make our move to Houston. 

Dad and I have an agreement that whenever he visits, he automatically wants coffee.
I'm happy to oblige.

Monday, April 25, 2011


It's been a long time since I've done a post about birds. In fact, that was two blogs ago, I think!

I was pleasantly surprised when Craig urged me to come quickly and see what he had discovered while putting our screens in the windows today. 
(Yay! Spring has come to Pittsburgh!)

I love that my family appreciates my interest in birds.

This vigilant mama kept an eye on me as I poked my head out to snap a photo of her protecting her eggs.
Mourning doves can be super annoying, but I still love this season. I just hope she doesn't wake us at ridiculous hours with her warbling, as was our experience in Moçambique.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hey, Guess What?!

I did a guest food post on Cristie's blog today, if you're interested in learning how to make kale chips.

Check it out!

ETA: Cristie deleted and then re-started her blog, so this post is no longer available. Perhaps I'll do a new post at some time here in the near future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Craft Book Challenge Update

Liesl is fairest among patient friends.
I dropped the ball on my end of the Craft Book Challenge for March, and she reassured me that it was totally fine and that the blog police wouldn't get me.


March was super busy, and I only touched my sewing machine about... well... I don't think I touched my sewing machine in March.

I'm not one to make promises if I can't guarantee the fulfillment thereof. So, I'm NOT going to say that I'll do two challenge projects in April to make up for March.
(But the thought has crossed my mind.
Several times.)

These super cute birdie pot holders came from Zakka Sewing. This book was one of my very few (read "astronomically-priced") purchases while living in Africa.
(I just needed some retail therapy.)

My mom always tells me that I need to make two of everything I sew, so that there's one for her, as well. In this case, I made three so that I may also give one to Craig's mom.

I'm keeping this blue one for myself.
I may even name her.
(She's a "her". I just know it. She likes tea. And flowers. And nesting. My kitchen is a good nesting place, I think.)

Like a Merchant Ship

A fine mess. Grateful Labor.
That's what this represents. 

When I thought that we'd be moving ten days from now, I decided to see how long we could stretch what was already in the freezer and pantry.
Aside from quick trips to the local grocery and an occasional bulk fruit run to Costco, I've managed to squeeze a lot out of what we already had on hand.

However, Mother Hubbard's Cupboard was beginning to echo in recent weeks, especially since I've been traveling and, therefore, neglecting many of my domestic duties.
(Kudos to my wonderful teenage offspring for running the household in my absence!)

Now that we'll be here for a few extra weeks, I realized that it was high time I feed my family sufficiently.

Today's grocery trip could have been made into a reality TV show.
The look on the face of the lady behind me in line at Costco said it all.
I assured her,
"We'll be back in two weeks."
She glanced at her lone case of Frappuccino and added that she felt like a "slacker".

I'll venture a guess that she probably doesn't have seven members in her household.

Two and a half hours after returning from my multi-stop grocery trip, I still have the rest of the pantry items lying on the floor and island, waiting to be temporarily stowed.
I'm taking this in stages.

By the way, behold my new favorite snacks:

I really like edamame. My favorite way of eating it is the way a local restaurant makes it (see note at the bottom).
My second favorite way to eat edamame is outside the pod, in salad.
This roasted snack version is yummy, too. 

Also, if you've never had anything from the Boulder company, these rice/adzuki bean chips are a good place to start. Years ago, I used to buy their malt vinegar & sea salt chips. They were the best ever.
When I buy these rice & bean chips (chipotle-cheddar flavor), I lose control. And sometimes I share.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

NOTE: Make this --

Edamame in the Pod

(Our family is large, so I buy the big, honkin' package at Costco.)

Follow the package directions for blanching them.
(approx. 3 minutes, I think)

In a large mixing bowl, coat with olive oil, salt (optional; soy sauce is involved later, which is very salty), pepper, and ginger.

Prepare in a ramekin (or ramekins, if you're germ averse, like me) a mixture of:
soy sauce
Hoisin sauce
rice wine vinegar
(The ratio depends on your own personal taste.)

Dip. Savor. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Finally, A Long-Over-Due Scrap Swap Update

I recently participated in Sara's Scrap Swap, but my schedule immediately kicked into turbo mode, which is why I'm just now getting around to talking about it.

I'm convinced that as scraps are weeded out of my stash, they reproduce before leaving. But why am I belly-aching? The very word "swap" implies that what is given will be replaced.

How is this a bad plan?

Anyway, here's what I got in the mail from my six partners. 
I'm thinking "mug rugs". 

From Laura

From Jacey

From Eileen

From Riel

From Shannon

From Sara
Now, if only I can find a long stretch of time, free of responsibility, to put all of this to use.

A girl can dream...

Reunited, And It Feels So Good

There's been a bit of travel going on around here lately. Craig spent some time working in Houston recently. I had the privilege of joining him for part of that time, (Woo-Hoo!) but it seems like we've been separated for SO long.

That could possibly be due to the fact that 1 1/2 days after his return, I hit the road for a completely selfish pursuit.
I rationalized that, because I was taking three of our children with me, it was perfectly acceptable for me to do so.

Our special guest travel companion was my mom!

Some highlights from my mini-house-hunting-conference-attending-family-visiting-quality-time-with-husband trip to Houston:

It was marvelous to sit in a WARM breeze on the patio of a cafe and enjoy a yummy lunch with the sound of birds in my ears, while gazing into the eyes of this man.

I recommend the veggie panini at Cafe Express in Houston.

What a rich blessing it was to hear sound biblical teaching from Conrad Mbewe, known as the Spurgeon of Africa. It was a delight to meet and talk with his lovely wife, Felistas.
We were especially blessed to see the great speaker of the "Truth in Love", our friend, Voddie Baucham. We thoroughly enjoyed our brief time with his family and a few of their friends.

A very special aspect of the visit was partaking of some of Voddie's amazing culinary skills. For lunch, we had some of his leftover chicken curry (some of the best we've had - complete with his own homemade curry blend), and for dinner, we enjoyed his delectable gumbo. This guy is highly skilled in the kitchen, which, by the way, is nicely outfitted with lots of excellent tools and gadgets. (I'm hoping that Craig's competitive nature has been spurred on by Voddie's impressive knife collection.)

Spending time with Titus 2 women was such a refreshment for me. I went home feeling as if I had been to the fillin' station. I look forward to spending more time with Voddie's wife, Bridget, and her wise friends.

The men enjoyed a grand time of "iron sharpen[ing] iron".

Before my flight back to the 'burgh, we had a nice brunch outing with my Uncle Mo & Aunt Shirley; and my cousin, Tammy, joined us with her husband, Bo, and their sons, Tres & Morgan.

Some highlights of my trip to Ft. Wayne, IN, to join my friend, Lauren, for the Vera Bradley factory outlet sale:
Given the number of shoppers over the five days of the sale (we only attended two), I was very impressed by the organization by all of the staff. Other retailers could take some pointers for their Black Friday and other future large sale preparation.

It blessed my heart to have a fellow shopper ask about my purse that I carried. I was delighted to inform her that I had made it myself!

These are some seriously fun shopping buddies! Lauren's youngest son, Timothy, was such a good sport throughout our excursion. It's a wonder we didn't completely wear him out. After the sale, we headed to Panera for lunch, followed by an outing at Hobby Lobby (since there isn't one in Pittsburgh).

We occupied ourselves during our half-hour wait in line with photos, edifying conversation, and determining our plan of action for sale shopping. It helped that we had also gone the day before. That way, we weren't tempted toward impulse purchases, and we knew exactly what we wanted by this time.

I'm really not a die-hard Vera Bradley fan, but I do like some of her pieces. I felt silly even traveling to buy bags, since I enjoy making my own. Still, there are things I'm simply not going to make myself, and it was a fun excuse to hang out with Lauren and her precious family before our upcoming move to Houston.

Vindication: Craig's exact quote (about my travel bag, which was my priority at the sale) was,
"That bag is 'bad', I have to admit."

I've been wanting one of these double change purses for a while, and I was pleased to NOT pay $25 for it.

I deliberated over getting this wallet, and on the second day of the sale, all of my shopping companions insisted that I get it for myself. They backed me into a corner. What else could I do?

I'm more of a Wal-Mart sort of purchaser of office supplies, but who could resist these adorable binder clips? I really don't care to know how far they were marked down on the final day of the sale...

Gabriela decided to stay behind at Lauren's house and babysit the other children with Craig Grayson. This was her compensation.

Craig's mom recently complimented one of my purses, so I bought this tote for her in the same pattern. She doesn't know it yet. :-)

Although I enjoyed my special trips, it was nice to again have our family all together.  I couldn't resist this moment with the children gathered around Craig.