Thursday, May 31, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another 2

A few years ago, when we were living in Alabama, I wanted to make some decorative pillows for our sofas. A friend suggested that I peruse the pillow selections at Ross, buy a cheap feather-filled pillow, and recover it with the fabric of my choice. This proved to be good advice, and I ended up getting really great inserts for a better price than if I had purchased actual pillow inserts.

In the meantime, I held on to the "ugly" covers that originally came with the pillows, thinking that I could eventually recycle them somehow.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when Morgan was in dire need of a heating pad and couldn't find ours. It was getting close to bedtime, and I was ready to shut down our operation for the night; however, I couldn't just walk away and leave my poor girl in agony. 

Finding items like a heating pad in our house can seem an impossible task, and I decided that it would be easier to quickly whip up a homemade heating pad than to comb the house for one that was missing. Seriously.

Somewhere in my internet travels, I recall having seen a tutorial for homemade heating pads filled with rice. Again, it would be easier to just go "maverick" with it than to try and remember where I had seen that tutorial. I mean, what's so hard about filling a tube with rice?

Enter the old, "ugly" pillow cover, and voila! There's not much else to tell! Well, not much except that I tried to be lazy and leave the zipper on it... until it was time to microwave it. Back to "Clara" I went, cut out the zipper, and stitched all the sides (leaving a temporary opening, of course, to pour the rice inside before hand-stitching it closed).

It's not the most beautiful item, but it worked just fine for Morgan.

Gabriela's Photography

In the winter months, our three younger children were involved in a co-op with our local homeschool group. One of the classes that Gabriela (12) chose was photography. Her teacher made it really fun; and although the classes ended a couple of months ago, Gabriela has continued to practice.

I've wanted to share a few highlights of our world through Gabriela's eyes:


This is one of my favorites. I had a greeting card made from it.

I love that she captured the irony of this scene in the lobby where classes were held.

One of the last vestiges of this season of motherhood

Friends from class


My mom

These last few were taken yesterday, and are definitely among my favorites.

 Gone are the days when I would tell our youngest child not to "mess with" the camera, for fear that she might damage it. Here to stay are the moments when I ask, "Gab, will you please photograph this [sewing project/food item/etc.] for me?"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Potty Bag

I love having friends who think more highly of my skills than I do. They challenge me to attempt projects that I would otherwise avoid. Thanks to my young friend, Kelly, though, it has now been determined that a toddler backpack is not so daunting.

Kelly and her husband just had a new baby girl a couple of days ago. In anticipation of her arrival, they recently finished potty-training their soon-to-be two-year-old daughter, Madeline. Being a super-organized mommy, Kelly likes to carry supplies to make Madeline's restroom visits easier on outings, as well as a change of clothing, just in case. She thought that it would be a good idea to have Madeline carry her own bag once the new baby arrives, while Mommy carries the diaper bag.

I bought Rae's pattern (and the license to sell), and found that it's quite user-friendly. This is something that could be made in very little time, but it took me over a week. It's not that it was complicated; but I wanted to work with Kelly to decide on fabrics, monogram style, embroidery color, etc. Her inspiration came from here, which helped me to envision how the backpack should look.

The fabric store didn't have any piping that I liked, so I made my own:

Rae, in her very clear, detailed instructions, suggests either hiding the inside seams with bias tape or adding a lining. I was pretty sure that I didn't want to bother with the bias tape, and my girls kept saying that a lining seemed like the best option. So, a lining it is! I added an inside pocket, too, but I didn't get an acceptable photo. The pocket matches the piping.

I have one more item to complete for Kelly before sending this off to her in the mail next week. I can't wait to see photos of little Madeline carrying her bag. She's such a doll!

Head on over to Amy's Sew & Tell to see what others have been inspired to create this week!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lovely Day

My sweet husband treated me to a lovely day out yesterday. Of course, he had to go to work, so I went with him. It's always an honor to talk with the staff, and I especially enjoy taking part in the staff's mid-morning Bible study.

The purpose of the outing was an appointment to help with a recurring problem that I've had for about five years. I have never had it checked out; but this issue slams me a few times each year, and the agony lasts for about a week each time. A friend of ours was able to tend to this problem for me, so Craig took me to see him yesterday.

But first! Oh, first we had lunch at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

Oh. Yes. The #1: CHҦ GIÒ VIÊT NAM

Always working. I don't mind. Everybody wins.

This one doesn't have a spot on the menu, as I customized it with basil, veggies, and chicken with curry & coconut milk. The staff at Huynh are so pleasant and accommodating.

In the meantime, the children were scattered elsewhere. Caelyn was at her nannying job, and Craig Grayson was at home doing his school work until it was time to go to work at our local golf club. The other three were volunteering to clean the industrial kitchen at Craig's work facility.

They had a bit of trouble re-assembling the stove after cleaning it.

After my appointment, we returned to Craig's office. I checked on our slaves children to see how much progress they'd made. They had covered a lot of ground, but there was still a lot to do. This worked out nicely, since Craig still had work to do, as well. I enjoyed sitting in his office and catching up on blogging and such, but I was missing being with my kiddos.

After 7 1/2 hours of exposure to cleaning chemicals, they were nigh delirious. And hungry. We're so proud of the job they did, though. The kitchen really needed this deep-cleaning. I hope no one will be asphyxiated by the lingering smell of bleach this morning. My children built a nice case yesterday for going "green" with cleaning supplies.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Smorgasbord Soup

We may live in one of the hottest places in the country, but my husband is among those with the highest tolerance for air conditioning, which means that in our house, soup is always welcome. It's also a good option for the interim period when I haven't worked on a menu or gone grocery shopping.

We had lots of company over the weekend, and we ended up with much more food than five families and two single guys could possibly eat. (This number was spread over two days.) When this happens, we can enjoy leftovers for a while. Yesterday, we were down to the last of our leftovers, and during my afternoon nap I came up with an idea to make "sausage" and lentil soup. (If you read regularly, you already know that I brainstorm about food ideas in my half-awake state.)

On Friday, we had a panini bar with crudités and Caelyn's amazing Butternut Curry Soup.

And you gotta love friends who come bearing homemade tiramisu. Really.

On Saturday, we had a Mediterranean meze, of sorts. My Amazing Husband made kefta kebabs, and Morgan made Lebanese chicken kebabs.

Other items made the spread, like homemade tzatziki, herb sauce, hummus, Lebanese 7-spice rice, Greek salad, spiced lentils, bratwurst (mainly for the children who visited), and cheese-stuffed turkey-bacon-wrapped jalapeños (just for fun).

The leftover spiced lentils served as the inspiration for yesterday's soup, and the recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, From Tapas to Meze, by Joanne Weir. I'm thinking that I'll add her to my imaginary list of residents in my dream kibbutz.

Yesterday while Craig took the four younger children to track practice, Caelyn and I stayed behind to make dinner. Actually, Caelyn watched The Nativity Story while I made dinner. It's OK. I've been found in my sewing room while she makes dinner. We give and we take. It's a beautiful thing.

Anyway, Craig really loves the sausage and lentil soup at Carrabba's, so I wanted to come up with my own version of it. I started out with some ground beef, which I chopped with a wooden paddle while seasoning it with various herbs and spices. I added chicken broth to the browned meat, along with a few extra dried lentils. Next, I threw in a couple of bay leaves and let it simmer until the beans were soft enough before adding the leftover spiced lentils. 

The pot wasn't looking like it would yield enough for seven people - especially when five of them were returning from practice with voracious appetites. At this point, I remembered Caelyn's leftover Butternut Curry Soup. Eureka! Yes, I did! I added it to the pot, which gave the soup just the amount of "body" needed to satisfy my hungry family. A couple of extra sprinkles of kosher salt and a little shake of the pepper mill, and it was ready. It's a good thing, too, because at this point I realized I could barely see inside the pot, thanks to my yearly bout with an ocular migraine that had just started building. These are always followed by a mild headache, but praise be to our great and awesome God! I do not suffer from severe migraine headaches!

I'm better now. :-) Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Selfishly, I'm wanting to post this for Amy's Sew & Tell, rather than waiting until after Mother's Day, but I'm gambling, instead. My mother does read this blog, but I usually have to text, call, AND email her, nagging: "Ma! Did you read it yet??" 

I love a reason to use the embroidery attachment on "Clara", and this mug rug offered a good opportunity. I wasn't sure what to make for my mom. She loves everything and gets giddy whenever I make things for her. It really makes giving her gifts that much more exciting. 

My love of coffee stems from my parents' influence, and Mummie can't even start her day if she hasn't fueled up. She's also a tea drinker. I don't know many folks who drink both coffee and tea. (Does this make her schizophrenic? Just kidding, of course.) So a mug rug seemed appropriate. This is only the second one I've made, and I can see why they're so popular.

I'm still waiting for the Lord to send me someone to rescue me from my utter disdain of the actual quilting process - even of small projects. I haven't finished a real quilt in a decade, and I'm not motivated since I'm not any good at it. 

Piecing, on the other hand, is fun, and I had a blast making this up as I worked on it. I decided to stitch in the ditch after completely messing up my... *cough*... "freehand" squiggly stitch (that obviously started out a zig-zag before I got my squiggle down). Oh well. Mom really does see me through rose-colored glasses, and she knows that this type of detail isn't my forté.

I've been wanting to do something else with a "States" theme, so I chose a twist on the "Road to a Friend's House" quote, and added appliqués of Mom's state and mine. 

Another aspect of quilting that tempts me toward violence in my sewing room is binding. Oh. My. Word. It's by the grace of God that I got this done. This binding is actually my make-up work. I've had it in mind to do a selvage project, after seeing so many cute ideas all over the blogosphere. I've been saving my selvages, and initially that's what I used for the binding. Mistake! I'll spare you the details of the horrible waste, since this story has a happy ending:

I almost have to laugh at this. I mean, we drove all 1360 miles from there to here - as did my parents on their recent visit - so we know that the road IS, in fact, VERY long. But the point is still nice.

On another note, I don't think that my mother-in-law reads this blog at all. If she does, she keeps it to herself; so I'm banking on the likelihood that she won't see this post before her package arrives. When my mom was here, I made her a checkbook cover a la Amy Butler. When deciding what to make for Craig's mom, I thought this might be the perfect thing for her, as well.

My girls laughed at me as I held this up to my new bag after completing it. It matches perfectly! (Good thing I don't need a checkbook cover.)

I've been wanting an excuse to use this fabric. I've had it for a while, and I just love it. I'm not sure why I haven't thought of a use for it before now. I hope that Mom W. will like it!

Sadly, I didn't get these into the mail early enough for the moms to have their packages by Mother's Day. I tried really hard, but I just couldn't make it happen. They're accustomed to my late gifting, though. Last Mother's Day was one of the few times that they had their gifts on the actual day. Of course, we were living there and had a luncheon for them at our house. *sigh* I miss them...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Merchant Ship" Day

Getting ready to take on the farmers' market
I recently did an experiment and found that it was a mistake. I went two whole months without shopping at Costco. I hope to never do it again. Without sharing shameful details of an annihilated budget, I'll just say that it is really, really expensive to feed a family of seven (bottomless pits) on good, healthful food with grocery-store portions and prices.

That said, the children and I embarked on Operation Fill Pantry yesterday. According to my GPS, our round trip was 69.2 miles. Along our route, we covered very interesting territory. Fuel prices notwithstanding, Houston is a fun city for the traveling grocery-getter.

"She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar."
Proverbs 31:14

I like to start at the farthest point and work my way back, so our first stop was the Mexican farmers' market. It's a fun cultural experience, and many people assume that we are Spanish-speaking. Yesterday we were questioned twice about our ethnicity. We're used to it.

I suspect that these mango "pops" are at the heart of my children's enthusiasm about accompanying me at the market.

If the mango "pops" aren't the lure for my children on these trips, I'm sure that the Mexican bakery across the street certainly is. One of their favorite Texas treats is the kolache. My friend, Sue, makes amazing homemade kolaches; but since we wouldn't just call her up and demand them on impulse, my family likes to get them from this bakery, filled with meat and cheese.

Gabriela patiently awaited her turn, tools in hand.

Next to the bakery is a spice store. I took advantage of its close proximity, rather than heading to my normal source. I probably won't do that the next time, though. As I drove right by Penzeys afterward, I immediately regretted having made the switch. Some things are just worth making the extra stop.

Craig really loves these sausages; but the market where we get them is only open on Saturday mornings. As I've mentioned before, track meets occupy our Saturday mornings, so I had to find another source. An online search led us to Nundini Italian Kitchen - a quaint little market/deli/restaurant with a gelato display that was very hard to resist. Mustering all my will power, I managed to walk away with only the sausages.

We finally made our way to Costco, and it was like seeing an old friend again. Making up for lost time, we ended up needing two carts. I knew going in that we should probably get a flatbed...

In the end, our Suburban was filled to capacity, which came back to haunt us when the trunk was opened. Thirty-two eggs met their demise on the floor of our garage, as the large box that had shifted couldn't be caught in time. Thankfully, there was no broken glass involved, and we still have forty eggs intact. 

And if I might add a Tip of the Day: Letting a 100+ pound dog lick up the broken eggs can lead to... um... air pollution.

A beautiful mess. I should have kept track of how long it took us to put it all away.

Deal of the Day: Three cases of mangos for $18.

Gabriela is proud of her fruit display.

Now that bulk shopping is done, it's time to make my regular grocery list. A mother's work is never done - and what joyful labor it is!