Feb 25

I visited my grandma this week, and she gave us stacks of old knitting and crochet patterns to look through. There was a pattern for this map of the world cardigan, and my mom and aunt told me that my grandma had actually knitted one for my grandpa. I didn’t remember it, so I asked her about it and she pulled it out. She said my grandpa chose the yarn and everything for the project (but that she made the USA on the back of the cardy LAVENDER because it’s her favorite color!)

She also showed me a cardigan she knitted that had bowling pins & balls on it. Apparently my grandpa wore it on bowling night. Love it!

Feb 11

daphnerecycledfoodAfter reading some terrific instructions on Like Merchant Ships on how to simplify when cooking for your family, I pretty much posted a blog in the comments.

As much as I wish I did, I don’t love cooking. Being the house cook is tough!

In our family, I have to accommodate a vegetarian (who doesn’t love all veggies equally), a pre-schooler who eats a HUGE breakfast and tiny other meals, and a toddler who has 3-1/2 teeth and must eat a good meal at regular times.

I’m of the oh-crud-it’s-4:50-and-dinner’s-in-10-minutes school of cooking. You could call me a Lazy Mom. I would be a perfect candidate for a meal plan, but I’m more of a grey-area person so schedules only work so well for me. I try to make meal plans, but I haven’t found a system that works for me!

I HAVE to have leftovers to use, or we’d all starve.

Here are some of my biggest kitchen secrets:

  • I make cream-of-whatever soup by the gallon on the weekend. I just chop up whatever veggies need to be used up for the soup (I use the recipe in my 70s BHG cookbook–we tend to mix potato, onion, broccoli, etc), and store it in a washed-out milk container so we always have soup on hand. You can eat it as is (sooo much better than Campbell’s condensed stuff), or use it as gravy, or as a binder in a casserole. It’s nice and versatile! It takes me about an hour to make the batch, from chopping to cooking, to pureeing.
  • I usually have cooked carbs on hand in the form of whole wheat spaghetti noodles (make pasta marinara, or use them for asian-inspired stir fry), and cooked rice. I am currently loving Calrose (white sushi rice). You can eat it hot or cold! I am going to switch to brown rice, though, because the Calrose isn’t as nutritious (darn!) I also like to make a big batch of oven-baked potato cubes (guess they’re home fries?) that can be reheated for breakfasty meals (or breakfast for dinner), or incorporated into breakfast burritos.
  • We eat a lot of mexicanish meals with canned refried beans as a main component. With a can of fat-free refried beans, you can make burritos (they take 5 mins to make), taco salad, or tostadas. I also personally love to heat the beans up, top ’em with cheese, salsa, and low-fat sour cream, and just eat ’em as dip with chips for a meal. That doesn’t fly well in our household, usually though! I used to cook a big batch of beans up, puree them and freeze them so I didn’t have to buy canned (more expensive) but there were some complaints about the taste and consistency of the homemade refried beans. I am still thinking about doing that again, and then mixing the homemade with the canned to cut the cost down of the canned beans. (We do get the cans in bulk at Costco – they cost about 87 cents each… still pretty cheap for a meal).
  • We buy eggs by the 5-1/2 dozen and eat breakfast-for-dinner regularly. It’s super quick to make eggs, toast, and reheated veggie sausage. You can also make quick egg sandwiches for a meal-on-the-go.
  • I keep breads in the freezer. We always have loaves of sourdough (for the adults), and whole wheat sandwich bread (for the kiddies’ PB&Js), and we keep whole wheat flour tortillas in the freezer in bulk as well. Bread defrosts super quickly once you take it out of the freezer, and it doesn’t get moldy and wasted if it’s kept in the freezer.
  • I keep frozen veggies and berries in the freezer. Veggies are important, and frozen ones are healthy (they freeze ’em the same day they pick them, there aren’t any added ingredients). They’re quick to heat up, and versatile. You can use them as they are with a bit of seasoning for your veggie side dish, or add them to other dishes (like the aforementioned asian-inspired stir fry) or soups. Want to turn your cream-of-whatever into a chunky chowder? Heat up some frozen veggies and add ’em! Quick!

My most important tool:

  • My toaster oven. It’s a mini oven. I rarely use the big oven anymore! The toaster oven cooks small batches of things (cookie dough for instance), and reheats things to crispy perfection. Leftover pizza tastes as good as it did the first time when reheated in a toaster oven. It’s as indispensible to me now as a microwave is. I can’t believe I lived this long without one.

Those are my cooking secrets! The main secret is, I’m really lazy and not apt to plan ahead. By using staple leftovers, I can make a “new” meal every day.

*Image by Daphne for CROQ Zine

Jan 29

I have been swapping quite a bit lately, and I just received a swap package yesterday for the Craftster Fill-A-Mug swap. My swap partner, ellen-j, did WAY more than fill a mug… wow! She made so much nice stuff for me and included a cute flower pot shaped mug. She made a big mouse stuffy, an owl, a coffee cup, three pretty crocheted flowers, and some scrabble tile pendants. And some chamomile tea!

She crocheted so many cute things for me, including this little pirate owl with a sparkly gold eyepatch.The owl had this note enclosed with him:

This is Petey. He is very confused. Raised by parrots, he expected to spend his life ona pirate ship: sailing, looting, and providing companionship to some lonely pirate. He only recently discovered that he was, in fact, an owl, and is now searching for his biological family. Not wanting to bother with a hiding place for his gold, he had it spun into an eye patch. Learning to fly with just one eye is quite a challenge.

This crocheted mug is so cute! It is filled with a ball (that comes out). Adorable! Made me want to crochet a bunch of play kitchen stuff.

She also gave me these fab scrabble tile pendants. They look like a lot of fun to make!

Jan 20

Inspired by this needle-felting tutorial at Dabbled by Sally from Pollywog’s Cakewalk, my mom and I recently embarked on a nativity scene making odyssey. We’re needle-felting figurines for a nativity set or three for next Christmas. We’ve already completed a few characters, including Mary, baby Jesus, a manger, Joseph, a sheep, and last night I worked on these two wise men. (The one on the right is supposed to be wearing a turban… I might have to work on that!)

We’re still refining our technique, but needle-felting is a fairly simple process, and also much more fun than you might expect. The thing that has kept me from needle-felting before this is the cost of the supplies, namely the felting needles (we got 5 fine needles for around $9) and the cost of the roving ($3 for half an ounce at our local yarn store). I am always tempted to buy in bulk when starting a new project, but who wants to do that when you don’t know if you will enjoy it or not?

Legit needle-felters might roll over in their, um, studios, but we have some unorthodox findings to share with you. If you have been hesitant to jump into yet another craft because you don’t want to drop $50 in initial supplies, listen to this:

  1. You can needle-felt polyester batting. Yes. That cheap polyester batting. It works well for creating an initial shape that you can then cover with wool roving.
  2. You can also use the polyester batting as is, and let it show. The white-haired wiseman has batting hair and beard.
  3. You can needle-felt non-roving stuff like wool yarn onto a polyester batting base. So, if you have a stash of wool or partially wool yarn, you can use it to try needle-felting out. We tried Lion Brand Wool-Ease and it worked.
  4. Wrapping yarn around the polyester batting and felting it works. Cutting shorter pieces of yarn and unraveling it into “roving” works better.
  5. You can needle-felt polyester felt pieces together.
  6. If you try to needle-felt polyester felt to polyester batting, the little batting fuzz comes through the holes in the polyester felt, so it doesn’t work as well.

I haven’t found info anywhere else on the internet that tells you the shocking truth about polyester batting and needle-felting. If I were teaching a class on needle-felting, I would hand out a lot of polyester batting to start with. It is great for practicing your technique.

I even had visions of dyeing the polyester batting for a huge supply of colored felting material. I did a bit of detective work and found that you can use a dye called iDye Poly to dye polyester. I haven’t tried it, and have found no info on dyeing polyester batting, but it would be worth a try. Just imagine dyeing a huge bag of batting and having all that material to needle-felt with.

Your world has been officially rocked!

feltedcupcakes

Jan 20
kreativeblogger
Thanks jojoebi for thinking of me for this! :) If you haven’t checked out the A Bit of This and A Bit of That blog, it is an amazing resource of Crafty Mama-ness and lots of great Montessori ideas.
jojoebibook
Here is my all-time favorite idea from jojoebi: Make an art portfolio book from your child’s art. Amazing! I am currently collecting and scanning my two kiddos’ art for this very purpose.

For the Kreativ Blogger Award:

Here’s what I’ve gotta do:
The rules are:
– List six things that inspire my creativity
– Pass the award on to 6 more kreativ bloggers
– Link back to the person who gave you the award
– Link to the people you are passing it on to and leave them a comment to let them know.

Six things that inspire my creativity:

1. Browsing Flickr. I didn’t get it for a long time (what’s so great about uploading my photos to some random website?) but then when I started discovering all the amazing Flickr groups, and their photo pools, I got hooked. There are so many amazing things to look at on Flickr. Here are some of my recent favorite groups:

2. Looking Through My Stash. I have so many supplies already. Using stuff from my stash (instead of buying new stuff) makes me feel so great. I especially love it when I think I need to go out and get some supply to make something work, but then I use my creativity to use what I have instead.

3. Hanging Out With My Mom or Sister. One of the ways we relate to each other is to make stuff together. We are always scheming and planning (and going to the craft store) when we’re together.

4. Swapping With Other Crafty People. I love the creative direction you get from the parameters of a themed swap.

5. My Blog. I love to get feedback about stuff I make, and having a blog to post on encourages me to be creative (and document the process).

6. My Two Little Boys. It’s so wonderful to have people who you can force your creativity upon. Ha ha!

Six People I Am Giving the Award To:
  1. Vone at How To Do Something
  2. Kellie at For the Love and Little Nummies
  3. Andi at Udandi
  4. ChicaSchmica
  5. Elizabeth at Things Bright
  6. Allie at No Time for Flashcards

Thanks Jo for the award, and congrats to the six new nominees! :)

Dec 31

calaverasandwich

Here are my favorite posts/projects from 2008:

Stashbusting Series

Dec 29

advent-detail2

My family tries to exchange primarily handmade gifts whenever possible. We’ve found that it has helped us focus on what Christmas is really about and get away from feeling trapped by all the consumerism that surrounds the holidays. I love to see what my parents and siblings come up with to give each year, and I enjoy plotting and planning my own handmade gifts. It’s also interesting to see which ideas are hits (duct tape wallets), and which are misses (the homely crochet-altered t-shirt I made for my mom this year – she actually laughed in my face when she opened it. Strangely, it entertained me rather than offended me.)

advent-nativity

I hit the jackpot this year with a great advent calendar my mom made for me. It’s a nativity scene theme, and is really cute! I’m sure we will get decades of enjoyment out of this gift!

portlandtea

My sister made these adorable little packets that are filled with her own blends of loose tea. She sewed sturdy gift wrap into bags, and then sealed them with buttons and added a custom label to each. I LOVE the packets – so creative and cute!

wrap-spool

My sister also got lots of mileage out of trinkets received in the Sampler, by attaching them to gifts as gift tags and baubles. I love this handspun yarn on a spool… I’m so sorry, I didn’t get a photo of who the sample is from, and this gift wasn’t for me!

lootbag-e

One of my handmade gifts to everyone were monogrammed loot bags. I made about eight of them the day before Christmas Eve, and seriously, the entire project took me two hours or less to sew. I assembly-lined the whole thing (cut everything at the same time, sewed all the monogrammed letters on the corduroy, sewed up the bags, etc.) and it was amazing how quickly the whole thing came together. Oh, and I got to burn through some of my stash fabric! I bought a whole bunch of holiday/winter fabric several years ago when it was on super-sale. It felt SO GOOD to use some of it up!!

lootbag-applique

The loot bags were also very useful for everyone to put their Christmas swag into. You know how all that little stocking stuff gets all over the place! In my imagination, everyone will put the loot bags in their Christmas boxes (or their stockings?) to use for next year, so I hope it comes true! Or, if they want to keep them out to use all year, that would also be fine! (Not that I attach any strings to gifts I give – do what you want with them, or not, y’all!)

tractorsheets

My mom was so nice to fulfill a gift request I made: to make two crib sheets, two pillowcases, and two curtains for the boys’ room. She complied and used some adorable construction vehicle fabric.

tractorcurtains

Now I just need to paint a mural on the wall, and they’ll be all set!

What did you make or receive this year?

Dec 23

christmascrafting

I’ve been at my parents’ house all weekend. This was unplanned! We meant to come up for Friday afternoon and spend the night and drive back on Saturday, but it has been so snowy here that it’s not safe to drive home. We heard that our house was without power and water, so the choice was easy – stay here through Christmas!

lewev-stockings

The first couple days I did a bit of crafting. I made stockings for my boys, and a holiday table runner from a stash of holiday fabric I’ve had for like five years. I only made the tiniest dent in my holiday fabric stash. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to add something to my New Year’s Resolutions list about using it up this year! (Excuse the cruddy photography! I don’t have all my standard equipment).

krumkakes

My sister and I made two batches of Norwegian cookies: sandkakes and krumkakes (shown here). I made some chewy toffee, and I am in the middle of my first-ever batch of penuche right now (I’m in the cooling down phase before the stir-it-for-ten-minutes phase).

smokingman

My mom has a WHOLE BUNCH of international Christmas decorations. This is a “smoking man” from Germany. You light incense and it looks like he is smoking. He appears to be a toy peddler. I love the little toys hanging from strings in his hands!

So, that’s me this weekend. I have been fairly craft-free, electing instead to loaf around and watch movies. Ahh, vacationy!

Dec 8

I decided to just use paint to decorate my Sister Diane salt dough ornaments instead of royal icing, and I love how they turned out! I sprayed them with shiny spray, which made a huge difference in how they look (without spray, the dough is a dull brown). I got this velveteen ribbon at the Goodwill outlet for about 20 cents.

I used dollar store paint brushes and kiddie paint, so they could have looked even better if I would have used better materials, but since they turned out so well, I think I will make a few more and upgrade on the tools so I can give them away as gifts.

And here’s our little tree. Notice the concentration of candy canes on the right middle. The two year-old was on candy cane duty!

Dec 5

If you just don’t know what to crochet for that special someone on your list this year, may I suggest these silverware socks brought to you by one of my 90s crochet magazines?

For the kid who has everything, perhaps the crocheted boxing set (complete with championship belt) would be just the thing?

Actually, my son would probably love the boxing set…

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