Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beautiful Life

Welcome to the weekly Beautiful Life festival, with Melissa from Inspired Home!

Hey look- I found a smile in my kitchen! At least he doesn't seem to mind the mess...

Just a few snapshots of our days.

A giant play-dough "Cookie."

Fresh loaf of bread and jar of apple butter
I've been trying to slow down and savor what we have, and have noticed a greater peace in our home, which we sorely needed! There are so many things I could get riled up about.

The frustration of going to church every week knowing I want so badly to talk, but I just can't seem to hold a conversation or answer a question (we attend a spanish-speaking church- I'm the organist.)

The humiliation of receiving my first ticket, EVER, this week. (Driving that same route for MONTHS, I've never seen the "no left turn between 3 and 7" sign.) And there was a group of police on the street to pull me, and every other driver making that turn, to the side of the road and unapologetically hand out $124 tickets. Ouch.

The chaos of arriving at a Halloween party to pick up my daughters, while receiving a call from my dad inside that same party: "Myrnie? How close are you? Mmhmm...OK. Ernie just had an accident." I found her blithely sitting on a child's chair in the tiled bathroom, surrounded by circles of wet rainboot footprints, just waiting for something to happen. (Did you know rainboots hold a lot of liquid?)

The confusion of teaching the second morning lesson of the day, while my oldest daughter spends most of the half hour on the floor or in her room raging because I won't let her eat all her candy at 8:30 in the morning.

I try to remember that these things are temporary. That children are our gifts, on loan from our Heavenly Father. That my daughters won't remember what we did every day, they'll remember if they felt loved or not. That they need me to help learn how to grow.

These are our days, and they'll pass much too quickly.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Question of Translation, of Ethics, of Beads

This time last year I was starting on a large bridal jewelry order- peridot-colored crystal earrings and necklaces for all the bridesmaids, "aurora borealis" clear crystal for the bride.  I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, and posted a tutorial for the earrings on this website.  One Pretty Thing featured the tutorial, and for a few days this blog had traffic like it had never seen before!

A little while later, I noticed a lot of traffic coming to my site from a particular website.  Turns out their main deal is finding tutorials and translating them into Spanish, and including the original pictures.  A link to my original tutorial was included, which is how I first noticed it.

So: how would you feel about that?  Flattered that they liked your tutorial well enough to take the time and translate it?  Miffed they never asked about using your photos?  Creeped out by the way information travels on the web, and once you hit publish you have no idea where your words and pictures will end up?

I'm trying to be more vigilant in watching my traffic, but I know I can only see links to my work.  If someone has lifted the pictures or text out, I'd never know.  Recently a blog I follow considered shutting down- she writes about Monstessori-based activities she does with her small daughter, and found that a preschool in Florida was using her activities (great) and featured pictures of the blogger's daughter on the school website as advertisement for the activities done at the school (so absolutely not great.)  This mother never would have known, had she not had a reader who saw the pictures on the website.

Another blogger, a craft blogger, was mailed a stuffed toy from a reader.  A company had lifted a free pattern posted by this blogger, and mass produced the toy to sell.  Another blogger, this time a graphics designer, found fabric with her designs at both Spoonflower and made into clothing in a department store!

I received a Flickr mail last week from a student asking to include pictures of my children on her blog- her college photography professor asked the students to create blogs to showcase their favorite Flickr pictures, and would I please let her use mine?  I never wrote back, but I will.  "No, please don't use pictures of my babies."

So, are we wrong to put so much on the web?  I try to keep my children out of this blog as much as possible (now.)  My private flickr account is mostly private (if you want to see pictures, you better be on my "friends" list or you won't see much! *grin*)  But what about creative work?  For most of us, the crafts and tutorials we make are just for fun, so only our egos are hurt if someone "steals" our work.  Right?

I'm still not convinced.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Refashion: Child's Cardigan

I've felted my first thrift store sweater, and I'm never going back. This was such a fun little project!  I'm excited to find more sweaters and see what else can be made- purses, diaper covers, felt pencil cases...oooh, the possibilities!

100% wool sweater
mesh bag
old bath towel
washing machine

Start with an adult-sized sweater. The particular sweater was a women's sized small made with 100% lambs wool. Put the sweater into a mesh bag (I used a laundry sack from the dollar store), and put it into the washing machine with an old bath towel (for friction.) Make sure you use something old- you'll be washing it super hot so it might shrink, and this process can make a lot of fuzz that will stick to the towel. The mesh bag will help keep it contained, though.

Wash the load as hot as your machine can, with a cold rinse, and just a little soap. Dry in the dryer, and pull it out to see what you got!

Honestly, I didn't know who this would be for- I had no idea what size it would be when I pulled it out. Turns out, it's a Mimi sweater.

Cut up the middle of the sweater, and trim the bottom edge and sleeves to whatever length floats your boat. We ended up cutting up all the ribbing off the bottom, and making little 3/4 length sleeves- anything too long around her wrists becomes a chew toy!

For an older child you could add nice chunky buttons, add embellishments, make scraps into little flowers and sew them many options!

We thought the arms might make nice leg warmers...but it really didn't work out. *grin*

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Letters from Santa!

That's right- your little one could get a letter from Santa this year in the mail, postmarked from the North Pole!  (That's North Pole, Alaska.)  Follow the new button on my sidebar to "Pretty Organized Palace" or click below- she's Santa's special secretary this year and will make sure Santa gets your request.

Letters are $5 each this week- prices will go up soon!  Your child will get a Christ-faith-based letter from Santa after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And the work continues...

We've had some late nights, but the work continues... it will feel so nice to have at least the main living part of the house painted! We feel so blessed to have our home, we're just tickled pink* at how the paint is turning out. We tell people that we'll have "grown up" colors later...but Wonder Daddy told me last night he hopes the day is a long way off that we don't want "young and vibrant" colors surrounding us.

In other news...the baby gate is down! (We mananged to screw the gate into the nails/screws holding the wall together...and Wonder Daddy would know, since he helped his dad build that wall last year!) The only option he could see was to saw the screws off *grin*

Ernie was concerned.

* Funny story about "tickled pink." A man came to church on Sunday to relay some area church news- new callings and assignment, etc. He didn't speak Spanish, so Presidente Martinez translated for him. During the men's class he got up to speak and started by saying "Brothers, I'm just tickled pink to be here!" All the english-speakers started giggling, waiting to see how el presidente would translate that one! Unfortunately, El Presidente chickened out, and said "Estoy muy emocionado..." (Which...I can't actually translate right now. I understand it to mean "I am very excited..." Yes?)
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trashing Soles, Saving Souls

Oh I know- I'm too punny! Thought I'd share a cute picture I received today of the missionaries in my brother's area. Could we try and guess how many months each boy has been out, based on the condition of his shoes? *grin*

Seriously though, I can't tell you how proud I am of this man- he's spending two years to serve a mission and try his hardest to get to know and help and love and serve the people he's with.

I'd say that's worth a pair of shoes or two, wouldn't you?

PS- He's the one with the buzz cut.
PPS- He's the one that's wearing a dark suit.
PPPS- He's the one that's the spitting image of our dad at his age.
PPPPS- He's the sixth from the left, who is looking at the camera.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All About Cloth Diapers

(Mimi sporting Bum Genius at our last family reunion)

There have been some really great cloth diapering write-ups in the blogosphere recently (see some great information here and here), so I thought I'd pitch in my two cents.  (And DO check out those links.  The first is to my good friend Rae and her homemade diapers and general diaper love.  The second is Tsh over at Simple Mom- she had a whole "diapering 101" week that was fantastic!!)

We started cloth diapering Mimi in June, and I LOVE it. Here's why:

1) We save money. We were spending $40 a month on disposable diapers, plus wipes! We also save money on our garbage- now we only half fill a "mini" can every week, and got a reduced rate accordingly.
2) My garbage can is no long a toxic waste site. Come on- anywhere you store disposable diapers for a week, they will STINK.
3)  Happy heinie- no more chemicals on baby's bum!
4) Happy planet. No more thinking about where my diapers will be sitting in 500 years.
5) CUTE. There's just something about seeing a baby in cloth diapers...much cuter than disposables. (How's that for trite-but-true?)
6) We try and have a years' supply of food, toiletries, etc. on hand.  The thought of keeping a years' supply of disposable diapers on truly daunting.
7)  Clean clothes.  We have not had a SINGLE leak since we switched to cloth diapers.  There have been a few times her clothes were damp, from a cloth corner poking out of the cover, but never a leak.  I can wash her diapers on super-hot water, and leave them in the sun to bleach until they shine.  Soiled clothes...are just stained.

We thought about switching for a long time. (OK, I thought about switching. Because really, how often does Wonder Daddy have the chance to change a diaper? Not often!)  I was nervous about trying something new, especially something that would cost so much to start with.

Here's what we ended up using- these are cotton "fitteds" I purchased on Craigslist.  I change her diaper every 2-3 hours.

We cover them with these water-proof covers. I change the cover once or twice a day, or when it gets dirty or smelly.

This is the second kind of diaper I purchased- a Bum Genius pocket diaper (you can see the inserts poking out.) This is not as absorbant as the fitteds, because it's just those little inserts soaking up, rather than an entire diaper. But, I love that they are micro-fleece on the inside. Keeps her nice and dry.

These are our wipes- the blue is a piece of flannel I cut and serged, and the pink is just a rectangle of fleece I had in my stash. I've also use large white "shop towels" from Costco- they're like washcloths, I love them for burp cloths, cleaning, etc. Right now, the fleece is my favorite wipe. It's a nice size and thickness, and is still soft when I line dry it. I also use these pieces of fleece as diaper liners when I need to use diaper cream- you can't put diaper cream on the diaper, or it will coat and stick to the diaper and inhibit the absorptive properties. (More about diaper rash later.)  I keep a bottle of water (with a 1/2 tsp of baby soap, but that's entirely optional) nearby to spray with.

Here you can see my entire changing station- I change Mimi on the bathmat in front of my bathroom sink, and these baskets are next to us under the counter.

Clean up is a major reason many people don't want to use cloth diapers. (For me, I'd rather hose something off and flush it away than store it in a trash can for a week!) I have two buckets in my bathroom- since I wash every other day, they hold the two days' worth of diapers. For soiled diapers, I use our detachable shower head set to a strong spray (with cold water) to rinse off anything solid.  (A note on the pocket diapers- shake the inserts into the bin before throwing the cover in!  Trust me, you don't want to do it when you're putting them in the washing machine :)  There are flushable liners you can use to help with clean up too- rice paper sheets that can be peeled off and flushed away when they're dirty, or thrown in the washing machine a time or two when they're just wet.  (Imse Vimse is one brand I've heard good things about.)

This cabinet is above my toilet- I keep a basket of cleaning cloths (the shop towels I mentioned earlier) and a bottle of disinfectant (hydrogen peroxide with 12 or 15 drops of tea tree oil). I wipe down the toilet after every spray-fest. This is, hands down, the CLEANEST toilet in my entire house!

Every other day, as I mentioned, I wash the diapers- since they're all rinsed and ready to go, I dump the buckets into the washing machine and wash the load on "sanitary" (the hottest setting on my front-loader: hot wash, cold rinse) with 1/2 Tablespoon of my laundry soap, 1 Tablespoon of Oxy-Clean, and about a 1/4 cup of white vinegar.  If it's not raining, I carry the clean diapers out to the drying rack to dry outside.  The sun will bleach out any stains, and sanitize the diapers.  I can definitely tell when it's been too rainy to line-dry my diapers- they smell musty.  The water proof covers should always be line-dryed, inside or outside, to make them last longer.  This is my original drying rack- I use wooden clothes pins to hang the diapers up by a corner.

I quickly noticed I often ran out of room on that little rack, and recently purchased this larger one from Ikea. I love it- it takes up very little space when not in use, but holds loads more than the wooden one.

All that said, there are a few things that have been tricky with cloth diapers.

1)  I mentioned the great "no leaks" part, but that fabulous seal also seals off smells- there have been many, many times that Mimi has a dirty diaper, and I don't know about it until I change her diaper.  This can cause some nasty diaper rash, and I always feel horrible.  It's been a learning curve, to be sure.  I try and ALWAYS change her diaper every few hours now, and it's helped tremendously.  Plus, I may just be getting a better "sniffer." :)

2) Traveling out of the house for more than an hour or two is tricky- I haven't found a good way to tote around dirty diapers, and carrying spare cloth diapers is a big space commitment in my purse!  Most of the time I carry a plastic sack for the dirty diaper, and keep disposable diapers in the car for emergencies.

3)  I have not found a diaper absorbent enough for night time.  I know there are lots of different diapers out there that would work, but the cotton diapers leave too much moisture on her skin and the pocket diapers just seem too thick by the time I put 2 or 3 inserts in there, and have leaked the time or two I tried.  We just use disposables at night, at least until I find a great night-time solution.  (I've heard hemp inserts are insanely absorbent- that's next on my list of things to try, because I've got about 20 disposable diapers left and I don't want to purchase any more!)

4)  Washing diapers DOES take up water- I have a front loader, and it's not really an issue where we are.  But perhaps it might be for you?  The clothes dryer is the real energy hog in this whole caboodle, so do line dry if you can.  Even if it's on a drying rack set over the heat register.

5)  Ummm...a cloth-covered bum is a somewhat bulbous bum.  It can be difficult finding pants for her :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

On the Table: Butter

I often find myself with large quantities of cream in the refrigerator- I like to make cakes and cobblers for family gatherings, and don't like to make frosting. Whipped cream is perfect! But what do you do when your freezer won't hold an ice cream freezer, and you have 3 or 4 cups of cream left over?

Make butter, of course!

You can put cream in a jar, and let your kids shake the wahooie out of it. You can put it in a food processor (but it won't hold much.) Or, you can do it like we do- in a stand mixer. Let that cream beat on high- it will turn to whipped cream, and get stiffer...and stiffer...and stiffer...and you'll start to think, after about 10 minutes, that something is seriously wrong. That's when you hear the sloshing- throw a towel over the top and let that baby run. When all the buttermilk has come out, scoop up all the butter you can and mash it into a ball to squeeze out more of the buttermilk. When you can't get any more liquid out, dunk the butter in a bowl of very cold water and start mashing it around in your hands to get all the buttermilk out. Rinse in more cold water, until the water runs clear- milk left in the butter will quickly turn rancid, and will burn if you try and cook with this butter.

Now you can spread it on toast, cook with it, or freeze it for later! (And that's a lot more than can be said for the about-to-expire 3 cups of cream that used to be in your refrigerator.)

Oh, and save the buttermilk- it's good for drinking and baking! (This is not "cultured" buttermilk, though- it's butter-y tasting, not sour.)

(For reference, my 3 cups of cream got me a grapefruit-sized ball of butter, and a tumbler-full of butter milk.)
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Life

Rarely glamorous, but always full-to-the-brim!

Thought I'd just "keep it real" with a few pictures I snapped Friday evening. We had painters here, and our kitchen was a BUSY place!

Here's Ernie, eating her snack...on the floor. Did I mention we had painters? The girls and I were boxed into just a few rooms for a while.
You can see my mondo sugar, bag of apple scraps for the worms, and my empty canning-jar box...

Ahh, here we come to the crux of the matter: pots on the stove from canning apple butter, loaf pans from making bread, apple cake, crock pot I cooked the apple butter in, canning tongs, wheat grinder...

Eep! Sugar, empty boxes, clean dishes...
Why is it that a delicious and full rarely a clean life? Oh well- I'd rather have a dirty kitchen and yummy homemade food any day! (And yes. It's sparkling clean now *grin*)

Happy Sunday, y'all! Hope it's a restful, blessed day!

"Saturday is a special day, it's the day we get ready for Sunday...."
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Beautiful Life: A Coat of Paint

Welcome to our friends from Melissa's Beautiful Life festival!

After being in this house a little over a year, it feels like we're making real progress on our list of painting "wants"! The previous owners had a real love for muted, dusty earth tones. The whole house matched....but felt too "drab" and dark for our family. We have young kids, and at least 30 windows- we want light! Color! (to go with our "Action!" I just had to say that *grin*)

We started with pesto green walls in the living room, followed by butter yellow in the dining room and entry.

Last weekend we finished painting the window trim a nice shiny white, a welcome change from the light beige before.

This paint was done last year- my husbands WONDERFUL parents pitched in to help Wonder Daddy finish up the paint before Mimi moved into her nursery. If you could have seen it before...this room had a dingy ceiling and burnt orange walls. Absolutely depressing!

Here you can see the yellow in the dining room...and the white we're putting on the ceiling this week! Good grief, I didn't realize how NOT white our ceilings were! This is probably the original paint, and our house was built in 1977! We've had to hire a friend to come in and help paint the ceilings- they're so high, we didn't have a ladder that would reach!

When he climbed up to the top of his 2o foot a-frame ladder today, and non-chalantly stood up there painting the ceiling while chatting with me about my family... I knew there was a reason we hire people to do things we just can't! (I'm so afraid of heights, it's ridiculous. Four foot ladders have me clutching at anything I can reach to steady myself.)

We have a few more yellow walls to paint, one lilac, and blue, and white....oh, I can't wait to show you all of our after pictures!!  We're going to be a crayola-colored house- there will be plenty of years to have "grown up" colors and "grown up" furniture, but for now we'll revel in our children's little world.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You Fail Some, You Win Some

I have made a batch of bread almost every other day since July of 2008. Notwithstanding that, I had never made a decent loaf of 100% whole wheat bread. I grind my own wheat before each batch- the flour starts losing vitamins about 18 hours after you grind it- you can keep it fresher in the freezer, but I think it's easier to grind a few cups when I need it. Also, if I understand correctly, what is sold as "whole wheat flour" at the store isn't actually whole at all- the oily parts of the wheat kernal are removed, so the flour won't go rancid on the store shelf. So if you want all the benefits of whole grains, mill your own!

I always grind 2 cups of wheat (about 4 or 5 cups of flour) and make up the rest of the batch with white flour (normally about 1 1/2 cups.) So it's PRETTY healthy...but it would be nice to be able to make a decent all-wheat loaf!

See this? This is what happens when I tried (yes, it's in my kitchen compost bin.) Loaves the size of bricks, too dense to cook properly, almost soggy in the middle, definite tang (not in a good way). The whole wheat flour was just too course- the jagged edges constantly cut the gluten strands before they could become nice and long. White flour has most everything taken out, so it doesn't have bran- makes a nice smooth dough.

But hey! On a whim I tried a new batch with all wheat and 2 Tablespoons of vital wheat gluten flour I had in the cupboard. I couldn't believe the difference it made! Perfectly-shaped loaves, nice and springy texture, beautiful dough... if you've ever wanted to make wheat bread, I definitely recommend adding some gluten flour!

(The jam is coming in another post- easiest jam ever!)

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Ribbon Headbands

I love simple little projects, and this is one of the quickest ever! These little ribbon headbands are so much fun to make- just a few inches of ribbon, heat-sealed at the ends, and a few inches of black 1/4 inch elastic (the bow is a clip) and you're good to go!

Our craft store always has a bin of $1 ribbons, and this is a great way to use up odds and ends you just couldn't bear to part with (I'm not the only one hanging on to 8 inches of ribbon, am I??)

This could also be a good way to get your girls excited about the fabric store- I know Ernie would love picking out a pile of "favorites" to make into headbands, and since each headband only takes a few inches of ribbon, they're inexpensive too!

Here's the question, though...would YOU wear one?  Or would you leave these to the kids?  (Because I'm totally going to make a pile for myself!)
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Saturday, October 10, 2009


Two blog posts in one day? Well, I couldn't let this night go by without telling you...

for the first time in my life, I have run a mile. No stopping. No walking. Parts were slower, and I had to sprint from the corner to the front door to beat that 12 minute time, but it was a "good" mile- you know sometimes the running just doesn't come together, and sometimes it does? Tonight, it did. And oh, I am so happy!

Wonder Daddy wants to know if I want to find a "Turkey Trot" 5k to run this year...and you know what? I think I will!
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Beautiful Life: A Soft Place to Land

Welcome to all our Beautiful Life friends! I'm happy to be participating today, and I'm glad you're here!

I've caught the Fall Nesting Bug, and I couldn't be happier! It's been such a beautiful summer, full of sunshine, family, gardening, cooking...but now that the weather is cooler, my thoughts are turning indoors. Time for cozy couches, giant sweaters, and yummy colors.

Our living room needed a little something, so Wonder Daddy picked out this gorgeous fabric- no, really...he did. He's in charge of most of our decorating!

This marvelous post reminded me just how much I love making pillow covers in that pattern- so quick and easy!

Comfy, too.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Do You Like Giveaways?

Late one evening a few weeks ago, as I was flipping through a few blog posts in my reader, I realized how MANY giveaways there are out there.  And of those MANY giveaways, so many of them ask you to blog about them to be eligible to win...and I really, REALLY, didn't want to do that to you guys.

Didn't want to tell you every time I entered my name in a hat to win Peanut Butter.

Or a Dress.

Or a BOATLOAD of triathlon gear.  (OK, not gonna lie- that was totally Wonder Daddy's deal, not mine.)

But....I kind of wanted to enter.  And maybe there are a few people out there who would like to hear about my favorite freebies out there?

So, if you like a good giveaway, head on over to the newest member of our Blog Squad, I Heart A Giveaway!

Monday, October 5, 2009

New 'Do

After a lot of hand-wringing and mirror-staring, I handed Aunt LoLo the scissors at our recent family reunion, while Aunt Bert stood by to offer advice.

Two weeks later, I took the scissors in my own hands and trimmed the bangs from bottom of the nose (couldn't bring myself to use enough "product" to keep them out of my face!), to what you see here.

 I'm still trying to decide if I can show my face in public.  It hasn't helped that when my piano students came back, each of those 13 sweethearts walked in the door and stared at my head.  Mouths agape.

Oh it was quick, and (sometimes) subtle...but it was there.

I was hoping for Zooey...but I'm afraid I got mullet.  As a girl who has NO idea what to do with hair, any hints?  Should I keep cutting?  Try a different way of wearing it?

Perhaps I should have saved my "something's got to change or I'm going to bust!" energy for something a little more like...oh, painting a wall?  :)

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