Thursday, December 4, 2014

Let the baking begin!

December 4:  silver

Today's the day we dust off the cookie cutters and vintage baking tins:  holiday baking begins!  We'll be baking all month long, but I wanted to get a couple of cookie batches made before we leave for the hospital this weekend.  I always use the sugar cookie recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for our cut-out Christmas cookies.  


They're buttery, sweet, not too soft, and have a nice, crunchy crumb.  I've been using this recipe for about 15 years now, and it's never failed me!  Behold, cookies of Christmases past. . . .




As for the vintage cake tins, I used to bake tiny banana nut breads in them.  But a couple of my kids have since developed severe allergies to bananas, so zucchini breads will take their place this year!  I love this recipe, also a BHG recipe. . . .



And also tonight. . . .

We baked pretzel bun hot dogs for dinner.  They're soooo good!  The pretzel buns are not a quick and easy meal, if you make the pretzel dough from scratch, but they're definitely delicious and worth the hassle.  




Although, I will admit, I usually skip the baking soda bath at the end.  They taste just as good, in my book, and no one even noticed when I skipped that step.  YUM!

Do you bake during the holidays?  What is your most favorite baked holiday treat?  Please feel free to share recipe links to your blog, pin or recipe!

fairy drops, another fave around here!

Talk to you soon!  Happy baking!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Welcome, December!

Welcome, December!  It looks to be an interesting month. . . .

http://www.theidearoom.net/2014/11/december-photo-day.html

I'm doing a photo-a-day challenge with The Idea Room this month!  I've never done one before, and this one looks fun and easy.  My photos may be a little... odd... since part of December will be spent in the hospital with B.  You can follow mine on instagram if you'd like.  I hope you'll join in!  Be sure to search #theidearoom to see all of the neat entries!

 December 1: red and white

December 2:  errands

December 3:  candle

And then this happened. . . .


Of course, since the holidays are here, it's time for major appliances to break down.  Isn't that how it works?  It does for us!  Last year, it was the oven the day after Thanksgiving.  The year before, it was the washing machine right around Christmas.  So this year, it was the dryer's turn!


The belt broke!  Luckily, I was in the laundry room when it happened, or I'd hate to think of what could have happened!  (fire?)

I watched a video on how to change the belt.  Looked easy enough.  I ordered the part from RepairClinic.com.  By the way, those people, and the folks at Partselect.com, are pretty awesome.  I've ordered from them several times (the oven... the washer... the fridge...) and they're always incredibly helpful and professional.  HIGHLY recommend!  Anyway. . . .

The video's verbal instructions, and the printed diagram, tell how to change the belt from BEHIND the dryer.  But the video's demonstration, and the written instructions that came with the part, show how to replace the belt from the FRONT.  uuuggghhhhh.  My brain just couldn't compute.


 So I took a picture of the instructions, and mirrored it on my phone.  Suddenly, it all made sense!  After some glitches, a few mistakes on my part, and additional research (do LOTS of research!) I finally got the belt on correctly, and we're now plowing, gratefully, through a mountain of laundry.

 And then this happened, too. . . .


Littlest Monkey is mobile!  And just in time for Christmas tree destruction decoration!


So nothing too exciting to write about; that's all that's going on around here.  I'm still sewing the felt birds whenever I get a chance.  I'll have some to list in my shop tomorrow!  'Til then. . . . blessings!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

B's knee: update

For the first few weeks after Brendan's surgery, I felt so overwhelmed, with caring for him full-time, and then having a houseful of sick people on top of that.  But since everyone's well now, and Brendan's recovery is coming along beautifully, I  feel like I can breathe a not-borrowed breath.  And give you a quick update.


Plus, Brendan wanted me to share his progress photos with you.  (I also promised to be real here, so. . . .)

Now, avert your eyes if you're squeamish. . . . 



They're really not that bad, but. . . .



Last chance to quickly scroll past. . . .




We (and that includes his surgeons) are so pleased with the healing so far!  Not just the incision, although it is quite nice, but the fact that his knee cap is where it should be for the first time in years!  To give you an idea of what it did look like, here's his other knee today.

the red X's show where the knee and quad should be. 
even with his leg straight, they stay on the side of his leg.

 quadricepsplasty will probably be performed on this leg, too, 
once his right leg has recovered.

both knees, September 2014

Preparation (and prayer) mode. . .  again.

Next weekend, Brendan will be readmitted to the hospital for a week, maybe two, for intensive PT.  Right now, he can't feel his quad, and probably couldn't move it if he tried.  We're hoping the muscles will "fire" during PT, and then he can start strengthening and moving the muscles.  The doctors are saying it's a very painful process, so please keep him in your prayers over the next couple of weeks.

That also means I'm going to be away from my babies again.

 60% of the brood

And during the Christmas season!  I dread that.  SO MUCH.  Pray for them, and for my mama's heart, too.


I'll keep you updated. . . .  talk to you soon.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Peace, pie, and preparations

I hope you all had a wonderful, safe, and sane Thanksgiving yesterday!  We spent the day baking, cooking, eating, napping, and laughing.  Perfectly peaceful!

my "peace."  I love these wild monkeys....

paper plates.... classy!

This morning was our annual Pie for Breakfast Day.  Naturally.



Preparations. . . .

Our Gratitude Tree comes down tomorrow, in preparation for the first day of Advent on Sunday.  I love how much it grew, and it always makes me a little sad to take it down.

we actually ran out of leaves last week, a first for us; 
otherwise, the tree may have grown even larger!

I've been sewing more felt bird ornaments in the evenings, when the littles are in bed.  It's a nice way to wind down, and they're so easy to make.  Here's the tutorial if you want to make some yourself!   If you'd like to purchase some of the little birds instead, I'm going to list some in my shop next week {HUZZAH!} so be sure to check back later.


I'll have a quick Brendan update for you tomorrow, so I'll talk to you then!

Have a lovely day!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Felt bird ornament tutorial, 6 ways


I've had a soft spot in my heart for red birds ever since my oldest daughters were babies.  Every year, their Big Pawpaw would hide a tiny cardinal ornament in his Christmas tree for them to find.  The girls thought this very serious business, as they crept silently around the tree, intent on finding that red bird.  Sometimes they found it immediately, and sometimes it took a while, but I'll never forget the expressions on their precious faces.  So sweet. . . .

Now these same baby girls are aged 20, 19 and 17.  :(  I doubt they'd go searching for red birds these days (unless the birds were weighted down with iTunes gift cards or cash,) but I've wanted to make some little red birds for our own tree for several years now.  I finally put my ideas down on paper, and wrote out this tutorial while I was at it. . .  which is what I'm sharing with you today!


This is a basic felt bird ornament, and I've included 6 different ways to embellish the ornament.  I know there are at least a bajillion and one different ways to decorate these birds, so I hope you'll have fun mixing up these techniques, creating your own unique, personalized birds for your home and loved ones.  These make pretty gift toppers, too!


Sewing level: beginner-plus and up
I recommend this tutorial for anyone who is comfortable with very basic sewing machine usage, and basic hand sewing skills.  (And this is a perfect tutorial for building both those skills and confidence!)

Let's get started!

GATHER MATERIALS. . . .


  • FREE pattern (print it out HERE, or HERE)
  • felt (one rectangle will make 3 ornaments)
  • fabric scraps
  • burlap (option 3)
  • lettered stamps and ink pad (option 4)... I got mine at Michael's in the $1 bin
  • sequins, buttons, lace, baubles (option 5)
  • embroidery floss and needle (option 6)
  • polyfil
  • ribbon, rickrack, cord or twine for hanging
  • needle and sewing thread or sewing machine
  • scissors
  • pen, pencil, disappearing marker, etc.
NOTE:  Here, I will be describing Option 1, the felt bird with fabric wing.  The Options 2 - 6 will be illustrated after the main tutorial, but they all come together basically in the same way.


CUT. . . .

** Cut out pattern.
** Using the pattern, cut 2 bird pieces and 1 wing piece from your choice of felt and/or fabric.  (For each option, make sure at least one bird piece of your ornament is felt, as this is the backing and gives the ornament some "body.")


EMBELLISH. . . .

** This is the fun part!  Embellishing your ornament is the first step.
** On the front, sew an eye on your bird.  You can sew a french knot, using 3 or 4 strands of embroidery floss, or sew a button or bead on with sewing thread.  A little dot of paint or sharpie will even do the trick!  (I don't trust most glues for attaching things to felt, but if you have one you trust, go for it!)


** Next, pin the fabric wing to the bird front. . . .


. . . and sew the wing to the felt, stitching very close to the edge.  Go slow and take your time.


** When you get to the point on the bird wing, STOP with the needle DOWN in your fabric.


** LIFT the presser foot, and PIVOT your fabric.


 ** Put your presser foot back DOWN, and start sewing again.


** If you want to decorate the back, perhaps adding the year or your name, do that now in your method of choice.  (I embroidered the year on this one, using 2 strands of embroidery floss and a stem stitch.)  Make sure you decorate the outside of the back piece.  ;)



ASSEMBLE. . . .

** Place the two felt bird pieces together.


** Insert your hanging ribbon at the * location shown on the pattern, between the two felt bird layers, and pin it in place.


hard to see, but the rickrack is between the two felt birds

** Next, pin the two felt birds together, wrong sides together.  Now, I personally hate pinning, and rarely do so, BUT... I do pin here.  Felt and small fabric pieces can be shifty and stretchy, so it's worth a few moments of pinning to avoid a messy finish or wonky piece.  Be sure to at least pin the beak and tail (tricky shifties!)


** Now, make note, on your bird, of the two smaller dots on the bottom edge.  You can use two pins, or mark these dots with a disappearing ink pen.  This will be the opening to stuff your ornament.


SEW. . . .

** Sew your birds together, stitching close to the edge (about 1/8") starting at one of the small dots you marked, and stopping at the other small dot, leaving the small opening unsewn for now.  Be sure to do a reinforcing stitch (it's just one back-and-forth stitch) when you both start and stop, and when you sew over your hanging ribbon.

use the same PIVOT trick on the beak and tail that we used on the wing point


STUFF. . . .

** Carefully stuff your ornament with polyfil, taking care not to stretch the opening too wide.  (This could make for a lumpy, wonky finish when closing the hole.)


** TIP:  Stuff the beak first, with a tiny bit of polyfil first, then fill the rest of the body, with the tail being last.  Use a pencil to help poke the stuffing well into the beak and tail.

CLOSE. . . .

** Pin the opening closed.


** Sew the opening closed, either by hand or machine.  Machine sewing is faster and neater, but make sure you place your needle exactly in one of the previous stitches where you had stopped, and try to end the closure in line with the other stitches.  (Don't forget to reinforce!)


aaand DONE!


But wait!  You could add a lovely blanket stitch (or other decorative stitches) around the edge, in a contrasting color of embroidery floss.  It's easy to do, takes just a little extra time, and makes the ornament look super spiffy!

I used 3 strands of embriodery floss for this blanket stitch


And now for more options. . . .

Option 2


** Cut 1 felt bird, 1 fabric bird, and 1 wing from your choice of felt or fabric.  Continue with the tutorial as written. . . .


Option 3


** Cut 2 felt birds, and 1 wing from your choice of felt or fabric.  Do not cut out a burlap bird at this time.


** Now, place one of your felt bird pieces on the burlap.


** Flip the bird piece over on the burlap, and pin in place.



** With the felt side up / burlap side down, sew all along the entire edge of the felt bird, very close to the edge (about 1/8".)

use the same PIVOT trick for the beak and tail as 
we used above for the wing point


** Next, using the felt bird as your guide, trim the burlap all around the bird.



** Handle the burlap gently, as it tends to shred and flake a bit.
** Now, embellish the burlap side of the bird as you desire.  Here, I attached a fabric wing, as I did in Option 1 above.



** Add a hanging ribbon, stuff and finish the ornament as above.

 I found it easier (and less flaky) to pin through the felt, 
rather than the burlap.  Just watch / feel for pins as you sew!


** When you're finished, trim the fraying edges of the burlap if you like.


Option 4


 ** Cut 2 felt birds, and 1 fabric rectangle tag.


** Stamp the fabric tag with your desired name, year or sentiment.


** Attach the tag just as you would the wing in the Option 1 EMBELLISH step, and then proceed with the rest of the tutorial as written.



Option 5


** Cut 2 felt birds (no wing or tag... unless you want one.)


** At the EMBELLISH step, go crazy with the bedazzlements!
** Sew on sequins, buttons, lace... stick on rhinestones... glue (if you trust it) on all of the above... whatever your heart desires!



** Be sure to leave some room for stitching around the edge of the bird, or just hand sew it.  This ornament can be a little tricky, depending on the bulkiness of the bling, so sew slowly if needed.

sloooowww....

** Proceed with the rest of the tutorial as written.

Option 6


** Cut 2 felt birds (no wing or tag.)


** At the EMBELLISH step, write the name, date or sentiment on the front of your bird, using a disappearing ink pen, or skip that part if you plan to freehand your design like I did.
** Embroider your design onto the felt.  I recommend using 2 or 3 strands of embroidery floss, and a simple back stitch, split stitch or stem stitch.  Use whichever you are comfortable using!

I used 3 strands of embroidery floss and a simple back stitch for this design.

** Proceed with assembling and finishing the ornament as written.

And that's it!  :)



I hope you enjoy this tutorial as much as I enjoyed sewing and writing for it!  If you have any questions at all, please ask me in the Comment section below.  And if you make any of these ornaments, I'd love to see your creations!  Feel free to share them on my facebook page, or link to your creations in the Comment section below.


Talk to you soon!